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Barcelona upset at Levante 3-1; Madrid held 0-0 by Betis

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi's penalty strike to give Barcelona the early lead wasn't enough once complacency set in. Barcelona paid the price for not seeking a second goal and coming out of halftime in sluggish fashion on Saturday when it was shocked by a Levante side that scored three goals in an eight-minute span. Levante's 3-1 upset win broke Barcelona's run of seven victories in a row across all competitions and left its lead of the Spanish league at risk. Granada can jump ahead of the defending champion if it beats Real Sociedad on Sunday. Atlético Madrid and Sevilla wasted their chance to leap to the top of the table when they drew 1-1 in an entertaining match in Seville. Real Madrid did so as well after it was held by Real Betis to 0-0 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. "It's the reality of football, it is harder and harder to beat any team," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said about the slips by La Liga's top teams. "Levante beat Barcelona, that shows you can't take any game for an easy win. This level of competitiveness makes our league the best in the world." Madrid pulled level with Barcelona on points, with Barcelona ahead on goal difference. Atlético and Sevilla are both one point behind. Barcelona hosts Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday. Madrid hosts Galatasaray on Wednesday, when Atlético visits Bayer Leverkusen. THREE IN EIGHT Messi converted a spot kick in the 38th minute after Nelson Semedo was tripped by Jorge Miramón in the box. The goal extended Messi's scoring run to five consecutive games. But Barcelona lost striker Luis Suárez to a right leg muscle injury before halftime and came out after the restart without any fire. Levante's first two goals both came after Barcelona booted aimless long balls from its area that were picked off by the host, which with one pass was already in striking position. José Campaña equalized and Borja Mayoral and Nemanja Radoja quickly added a goal each. "Everything turned against us. We weren't creating chances, and although they weren't either, they scored two goals in two minutes," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "And the third goal did a lot of damage. We didn't play well in the second half." SHOOTING BLANKS The pressure will be back on Zinedine Zidane to make Madrid's attack click. Madrid was limited to strikes by Sergio Ramos before halftime and desperate late efforts in injury time from Vinicius Jr. and Daniel Carvajal. But Betis goalie Joel Robles saved them all. "Our level of intensity and attitude were perfect, we just couldn't find the goal," Zidane said. "We dropped two points at home, but playing like this we will be fine." Madrid dropped points for the fifth time in 11 league games. It has also just won once in three Champions League matches. SAVED PENALTY Goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik helped save a point for Sevilla when he smothered Diego Costa's spot kick and blocked the follow-up attempt by Jorge "Koke" Resurrección with the score at 1-1. Sevilla took the lead from a free kick by Ever Banega that Franco Vázquez headed off the turf and past Jan Oblak, The Atlético goalie, usually so sure in the net, could have done more to stop the ball that went in off both hands. But led by midfielder Thomas Partey with his runs forward from the midfield, the visitors increased the pace, and the scoring chances appeared for both sides. Álvaro Morata leveled with half an hour to go when he headed in a cross by Santiago Arias by using his superior height to beat defender Jesús Navas at the far post. "Atlético Madrid did more than enough to win this game," Koke said. "This is a little strange, how the big teams aren't winning." WINLESS AT HOME Maxi Gómez scored with 10 minutes left to give Valencia a 2-1 victory and keep relegation-threatened Espanyol winless in all six league games it has played at home. Rodrigo Moreno set up Gómez's winner after earning a penalty for Dani Parejo to equalize from the spot. Valencia hosts Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 3rd, 2019

Barcelona s depleted squad held again in Spanish league

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — The absence of Lionel Messi and other injured players took its toll on Barcelona again. Barcelona's depleted squad stumbled in the Spanish league for the second time in three rounds on Saturday, drawing 2-2 at promoted Osasuna to enter the international break with only four points. Without Messi, Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembele because of injuries, the Catalan club let victory escape after conceding an 81st-minute equalizer from a penalty kick awarded because of a handball by defender Gerard Piqué. Messi, nursing a calf injury, is yet to play in the league this season, while Suárez and Dembele appeared only in the first match, when the two-time defending champion lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao for its first opening defeat in a decade. "We were terrible, they got the lead and we couldn't get near their area," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "We played better in the second half and controlled the game, but we can't allow the game to get away from us like that." Midfielder Roberto Torres converted the late penalty for Osasuna. He had also found the net with a neat volley less than 10 minutes into the game to put the hosts ahead in Pamplona. Barcelona rallied with goals early in the second half by substitutes Ansu Fati and Arthur. Fati, a 16-year-old from Guinea-Bissau, scored his first goal with the senior team with a 51st-minute header. The speedy youngster had made his first-team debut in the 5-2 win over Real Betis at Camp Nou Stadium last weekend. Arthur got on the board with a well-placed shot into the far corner after cutting back to avoid two defenders in the 64th. Carles Pérez, a 21-year-old starting his second straight match due to Barcelona's injuries, had a great chance to give his team the lead in the 88th but lost control of the ball with only the goalkeeper to beat. Antoine Griezmann, who scored twice against Betis, had a lackluster performance on Saturday. "We are upset because we did the hard part, which was to come from behind to take the lead," Sergi Roberto said. "There is still a lot of league left. This should come as a message that we can't lose our focus." Osasuna remains unbeaten on its return to the first division after opening with a victory and two draws. It hasn't lost in 27 straight home games at El Sadar Stadium. "The team played well and in the end we were awarded the penalty," Torres said. "It was a fair result." Before the match there was a minute's silence in tribute to 9-year-old Xana, the daughter of former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. She died on Thursday from a type of bone cancer. The silence will be repeated for all games in Spain this weekend. OTHER RESULTS Real Betis rebounded from two consecutive losses by coming from behind to defeat Leganés 2-1 at home with second-half goals by Lorenzo "Loren" Morón and Nabil Fekir. Getafe drew 1-1 with Alavés at home, while Levante defeated visiting Valladolid 2-0 with late goals by Sergio León and José Luis Morales. On Sunday, Atlético Madrid hosts Eibar and Real Madrid plays at Villarreal......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 1st, 2019

Barcelona s disputed draw adds fuel to upcoming clasico

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — A disputed decision not to award a late penalty may have cost Barcelona the Spanish league lead entering Wednesday's “clásico” against Real Madrid. Barcelona was held to a 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad on Saturday, giving Madrid a chance to go into the midweek match at Camp Nou Stadium with a two-point lead if it beats Valencia on Sunday. Barcelona was expected to file a formal complaint to the Spanish soccer federation over the non-call, which came after Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente appeared to pull down Gerard Piqué by his jersey in stoppage time. Neither the referee nor video review thought there was enough to award a penalty. Barcelona was especially upset because Real Sociedad's first goal came on a penalty awarded in a similar situation after Sergio Busquets grabbed Llorente's jersey in the first half. “The one on Gerard was clearer than mine,” Busquets said. “If the referee saw the first one, he had to see that one as well. I think he saw it, but didn't want to make the call.” Spanish powerhouses Madrid and Barcelona will meet for the first time this season in a match postponed from October because of a separatist rally in the Catalan capital. “We don't know whether we will still be leaders or not, that's out of our hands now,” Busquets said. “But we will enter the match with good momentum. We have been improving and we'll be playing at home.” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde didn't rest any of his top players, using Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann in the attack. Messi didn't play in the team's Champions League match at Inter Milan on Tuesday. Barcelona, which had won nine of its last 10 league games, was outplayed during most of the match at Reale Arena. Fifth -place Sociedad creating most of the scoring chances and restrained Barcelona, which was in control for short periods of the game but couldn't capitalize on its chances to seal the victory. “We are upset despite a draw against a team like Barcelona,” Real Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil said. “We did more than they did, we could have taken the three points.” Mikel Oyarzabal opened the scoring for the hosts by converting a 12th-minute penalty kick after Busquets was caught grabbing Llorente inside the area. Barcelona recovered with two fast breakaways, one late in the first half and another soon after the break. Griezmann equalized in the 38th by flicking the ball past goalkeeper Álex Remiro from inside the area. Griezmann, who played nine seasons with Real Sociedad, didn't celebrate his goal. “I have a lot of respect for those who have given me everything,” said Griezmann, who has scored three goals in his last five matches. Suárez put the visitors ahead in the 49th with a strike into the open net after a short pass by Messi. The hosts equalized in the 62nd with a close-range shot by striker Alexander Isak after Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen couldn't fully clear a cross. Oyarzabal had also scored the last time Real Sociedad beat Barcelona, in a league match back in 2016. Barcelona had won seven straight matches against Real Sociedad in all competitions. Real Sociedad has won only one of its last five league matches. It had lost its last five league games against Barcelona. ATLÉTICO MOVES UP Atlético Madrid beat Osasuna 2-0 at home to end a three-match winless streak in the league. Álvaro Morata and Saúl Ñíguez scored a goal each in the second half to lift Atlético back to fourth place, the last qualification spot for the Champions League. Diego Simeone's team had won only one of its last six league games. Tenth-place Osasuna had lost one of its last seven matches in the league. ATHLETIC STALLS Athletic Bilbao was held by Eibar to a 0-0 home draw in a match between two Basque Country teams. It was the second winless game in a row for sixth-place Athletic, which hadn't been held scoreless in four straight league games. Eibar, sitting in 16th place, had lost four straight league matches. LEVANTE REBOUNDS A late winner by North Macedonia midfielder Enis Bardhi gave Levante a 2-1 win at Granada, ending the team's two-game losing streak. Bardhi scored with a shot from outside the area in the 89th minute. Levante moved to 11th, one point behind Granada......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 15th, 2019

Benzema scores on last kick as Madrid draws 1-1 at Valencia

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema scored with the final kick of the match to snatch a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at Valencia in the Spanish league on Sunday. The draw wasted a chance for Madrid to take the outright lead. Second-place Madrid is level on points with league leader Barcelona before the teams meet in their "clásico" at Camp Nou on Wednesday. Thibaut Courtois played a key role in Benzema’s goal when the Belgium goalkeeper joined the attack on a corner kick five minutes into stoppage time. Thibaut rose to connect with a powerful header that his counterpart Jaume Domenech batted down into the crowded box, where it reached Benzema to smash it home. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane rested holding midfielder Casemiro, who has four yellow cards and would have risked a suspension if he had played. Federico Valverde took the Brazilian’s place and had the game’s first scoring chance when he combined quick passes with Benzema before forcing Domenech to get low. Madrid was also without injured left backs Marcelo and Ferland Mendy, and Zidane had to employ the little-used Nacho Fernández, a central defender, on the left side of his back line. Madrid dominated the first half hour, working several flowing passing combinations to get into firing range. Valencia held firm thanks to holding midfielder Francis Coquelin until playmaker Dani Parejo shifted the action into a back-and-forth exchange. Rising talent Ferrán Torres had a great opportunity for the hosts just after halftime on the break, only for Courtois to close in fast and snuff out his attempt. Zidane sent on Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior with just over 20 minutes left to take advantage of the open space. But it was Valencia that broke the stalemate when Daniel Wass spotted Carlos Soler on a team break. Soler coolly fired in Wass’ pass after teammates had drawn off the backtracking defenders to take the lead in the 78th. STREAK OVER Villarreal ended Sevilla’s eight-match unbeaten run in the Spanish league with a 2-1 away win, leaving the hosts four points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sevilla had equalized and was pressing for a second when Villarreal got its second goal against the flow of play. Moi Gómez responded to Manuel Trigueros' run behind the defense with a lobbed pass that the midfielder controlled with his back to the net. Trigueros then stayed calm as goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik rushed off his line before passing for the unmarked Toko Ekambi to get the 74th-minute winner. Munir El Haddadi had canceled out Raúl Albiol’s header for Villarreal when the Sevilla forward rifled in a cross from Sergio Reguilón in the 61st. The win was Villarreal’s first in seven rounds. BACK IN FORM Getafe got goals from Ángel Rodríguez and Marc Cucurella to beat Valladolid 2-0 and move past Atlético Madrid into fourth place. After only one win in its first seven games, José Bordalás has got Getafe back to its good form from last season. The modest Madrid-based club is in contention for a Champions League berth after seven wins, two draws and one loss in its last 10 games. STILL WINLESS Last-place Espanyol remained without a victory at its stadium in nine games after a 2-2 draw against Real Betis. Betis got its opening goal from Borja Iglesias. Both Iglesias and Betis coach Joan “Rubi” Ferrer helped Espanyol earn a Europa League berth last season before changing clubs. Despite remaining five points from safety, Espanyol coach Pablo Machín was pleased by his team’s fightback from an early deficit to take a 2-1 lead before conceding a second goal to Betis’ Marc Bartra. “The point has more value than just a number. Today’s match shows us the way forward,” Machín said. RELEGATION FIGHT Ante Budimir scored for Mallorca with seven minutes left to earn a 2-2 draw at struggling Celta Vigo. The point allowed promoted Mallorca to stay just above Celta, which is in the drop zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2019

Barca exploits set-pieces in comeback at Leganés, Bale booed

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — With its world-class attack falling short against the worst team in the Spanish league, Barcelona turned to an underused weapon to remain atop the standings. Barcelona ground out a 2-1 victory at last-placed Leganés on Saturday thanks to a pair of second-half goals by Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal — both from set-pieces. Barcelona is known for its attractive passing-based attack and finely crafted buildups that can generate spectacular goals. But Leganés deployed two lines of well-coordinated defenders in front of its area and stifled almost all attempts by Barcelona to break through. The defending champions eked out the goals — from a free kick and a corner that led to a defensive error — to ensure they stayed ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference. “There were so many players in the middle of the field that we had to look to set-pieces,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “Today we clearly saw that we were going to need to score on a cross or an isolated play because linking up through the middle was impossible.” Second-placed Madrid overcame a gaffe by Sergio Ramos that cost a goal to beat Real Sociedad 3-1. Atlético Madrid was held at Granada to 1-1 before its trip to Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday. Atlético is in third place at three points off the pace. BOOS FOR BALE Gareth Bale was jeered by the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium crowd when he went on as a late substitute, as Madrid’s fans expressed their anger after Bale’s jibe at the club while helping Wales qualify for the European Championship this week. The images of Bale dancing and laughing behind a banner in Cardiff on Tuesday that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order” were not well received in the Spanish capital. Bale was booed every time he touched the ball, including before his cross was headed down by Karim Benzema for Luka Modric to put the result beyond doubt in the 74th. “We need our fans behind us for 90 minutes, as well as Gareth,” coach Zinedine Zidane said in defense of his questioned star. Sociedad striker Willian Jose poached a poor back pass by Ramos and put it into the empty net two minutes after kickoff. Madrid weathered a vibrant first half hour by Sociedad before Benzema chested in a corner kick from Modric to level in the 37th. Federico Valverde’s deflected shot put Madrid ahead at the start of the second half that was a riveting exchange of attacking waves by both sides. SET-PIECES With his preferred weaving routes through the defense cut off, Lionel Messi earned a foul outside the area. He then lobbed a free kick to Suárez, who headed home to equalize in the 53rd minute. That canceled out a 12th-minute opener from long range by Youssef En-Nesyri. Leganés was still close to taking a point until midfielder Rubén Pérez knocked a Barcelona corner toward his own net, allowing substitute Vidal to tap in the winner with 11 minutes left. “It hurts because they got us on set-pieces,” said Leganés coach Javier Aguirre after his second game in charge of the small Madrid-based side. “That is completely my fault. I have to tell my players how I want them to defend set-pieces better.” ATLÉTICO HELD Atlético squandered the first goal by left back Renan Lodi in the 60th when he shot between the legs of goalie Rui Silva. Germán Sánchez headed in Granada’s response seven minutes later. João Félix returned from injury for Atletico as a late substitute after missing six matches because of an ankle sprain. LATE CANALES Sergio Canales curled in a free kick from a tight angle on the last kick of the match to snatch a 2-1 win for Real Betis over Valencia. Valencia’s Lee Kang-in struck the woodwork in injury time before Canales got the winner. The slip by Valencia came four days before it hosts Chelsea in the Champions League......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 24th, 2019

Messi hits 50 goals for Barca, Madrid ends season to forget

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice to hit the 50-goal mark for the sixth time in his career on Sunday while Real Madrid put a fittingly poor ending to its worst season in recent memory after losing in the final round of the Spanish league. Messi scored his 49th and 50th goals in all competitions this season to give Barcelona a 2-2 draw at Eibar and finished as the league's top scorer with 36 goals for the Spanish champions. This is the sixth season Messi has finished as the top La Liga scorer, equaling a record held by Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra from the 1950s. Barcelona, which had clinched the league title with three rounds to play, will now look to also retain the Copa del Rey title next weekend when it faces Valencia. Its chance of a rare treble of major titles was ended by Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona won the league with 11 points more than second-place Atletico Madrid. It also finished 19 points ahead of Madrid, the biggest-ever points advantage by Barcelona over its fiercest rival. "We were very consistent all season long and that's what allowed us to win the league by such a comfortable margin," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. JEERS FOR MADRID Madrid endured the jeers of its own frustrated fans after a 2-0 loss to Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu. Most of Madrid's supporters have long placed their hopes on what changes the club will make to an underperforming squad in the summer. Not even coach Zinedine Zidane could find a saving grace to the campaign. "It isn't that we don't want to (play better), we aren't able to," Zidane said. "The best thing is for this to be over. We are already thinking about the future and next season." Madrid entered the match with nothing to play for, locked into a third-place finish for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1974. Since the return of Zidane to take charge of the club after its shock loss to Ajax in the round of 16 in the Champions League, Madrid has finished the campaign with a record of five wins, two draws and four losses. "The fault is ours," Madrid defender Marcelo said. "We didn't start well and we didn't finish it well either. In no way was this the season we wanted to have." MESSI'S DOUBLE Messi moved four goals ahead of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappé — who has 32 in the French league with a round left — as the top scorer in Europe's major domestic leagues. Marc Cucurella, a Barcelona youth player on loan to Eibar, opened the scoring before Messi got his first goal from a pass by Arturo Vidal in the 31st. Messi added a second just a minute later when he broke behind Eibar's high defensive line, received the ball from Ivan Rakitic and chipped it over goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic. Eibar defender Pablo de Blasis leveled just before halftime when he scored from distance into an open net after Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen made a poor clearance with his head outside the area. Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo was taken to the hospital for tests after he received a knock on the head and had to be substituted. Youth player Carles Pérez debuted for Barcelona in the second half. TEAM WINS, SETIÉN LOSES The victory at Madrid didn't save Quique Setién's job. Betis announced shortly after that Setién and the Seville-based club had agreed to part ways after two seasons together, confirming weeks of speculation that he was on his way out. At least Setién's last match in charge was one to remember for the coach. Betis outplayed the hosts from the start and got second-half goals from Loren Morón and former Madrid forward Jesé Rodríguez. A long ball by Giovani Lo Celso set Andrés Guardado free down the left as he sprinted clear of Raphael Varane before crossing for Morón to score. Lo Celso then slipped a ball through to Junior Firpo, who found Jesé unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box. Betis, which beat both Madrid and Barcelona at their stadiums, ended the season in 10th place. "This allows us to finish a season that has been a bit disappointing with a victory against a team and at a stadium that will always be a nice memory," Setién said before the club announced his departure. HOW IT ENDED Champion Barcelona, Atletico, Madrid and fourth-place Valencia qualify for the Champions League. Getafe, Sevilla and Espanyol took the Europa League spots. Girona, Huesca and Rayo Vallecano were relegated......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019

Valverde questioned after another late collapse by Barcelona

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona had once again played great, led through goals by Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, yet still managed to let it slip away. Barcelona squandered one of its best performances of the season by conceding two late goals to Atlético Madrid, falling 3-2 in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Messi equalized after Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion scored for Atletico, and Griezmann put Barcelona deservedly ahead 2-1. But the goalkeeping of Jan Oblak, Atlético's star this season, kept Barcelona out for the rest of the way while Álvaro Morata leveled with a penalty kick in the 82nd minute and Ángel Correa completed the dramatic turnaround in the 86th. For Barcelona, the chance to add a minor trophy from a mini-tournament played thousands of miles away is not the main worry. The concern is Barcelona’s odd knack of losing control of games that look like a sure victory. Whether it's a question of overconfidence, a lack of fitness or just momentary lapses that cost the team dearly, the pressure is on coach Ernesto Valverde. Messi and other team leaders defended Valverde, whose very good overall record at Barcelona has been blemished by shocking defeats. “It’s normal that when you lose and don’t reach your objectives, and when our fans see that the team is not playing like they would like, that people talk and say things,” Messi said. “We have to be more united than ever, remain a strong group and get through this. “This year we will try to play like we did today (before the late goals) and not commit childish errors like those we committed.” But that didn’t stop the Spanish sports media reporting that Barcelona club officials met with midfield great Xavi Hernández to probe him as a possible replacement for Valverde either now or next season. Xavi left Barcelona in 2015, following 17 trophy-laden seasons, for Qatari club Al-Sadd, where he coaches. The speculation that he could soon be returning home led to Al-Sadd saying no move was imminent. “The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it’s his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al-Sadd.” Al-Sadd general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement on the club website. “Xavi and his team are focusing on tomorrow’s match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters,” Al-Ali said. Barcelona’s loss at the King Abdullah Sports City on Thursday came five days after it conceded an 88th-minute equalizer at Espanyol in the Spanish league. The late goal by Wu Lei also came on a desperate counterattack similar to both of Atlético's late attacks that led to goals, when Barcelona’s backline was out of sync and let a pass through to a player with only goalkeeper Neto to beat. Wu’s goal ruined a superb match by Luis Suárez, who had scored with a fine touch and made a difficult pass for an assist. Suárez also backed Valverde on Thursday by taking the blame for the stumble against Atlético. “This loss shows we have room to improve,” the Uruguay striker said. “It shows us that there are mistakes that we can’t make because we were in charge of the game and we let them mount counterattacks … but the coach is not at fault. They were mistakes that we made.” Barcelona has drawn three of its last four league matches, but still lead the competition on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid. The team was leading before finishing 2-2 at Real Sociedad last month; lost 3-1 at Levante after Messi had put them ahead in November; and gave up a goal in the 81st in a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in August. Those setbacks would not be as worrisome for Barcelona if the team had not completely collapsed in the Champions League in recent seasons, most recently a humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool after winning the first leg of the semifinals 3-0. Valverde’s job was then in even more jeopardy at the end of last season after Barcelona lost the Copa del Rey final to Valencia, casting a shadow of doubt over the Spanish league champions. Club president Josep Bartomeu, however, has stuck by the former player who is known for his intelligence and unflappable attitude. Valverde is in his third season at Barcelona. He has won back-to-back Spanish league titles and one Copa del Rey final. A European Cup has eluded him. Valverde said he was used to the criticism as part of a job that was never secure. “We coaches always work with the idea of giving it our all to each match,” Valverde said. “We know how soccer is and that there is a permanent instability in teams when you are not getting good results or when you lose. Now that we have lost I suppose people will talk about it, but I remain focused on my job.” Valverde’s next job is to prepare for the visit of Granada on Jan. 19. In the meantime, Atlético will face crosstown rival Real Madrid in the Super Cup final on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2020

Madrid ends winless run at Getafe, Oblak saves Atletico

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid needed a defender to end a run of three straight draws and a worrisome scoring drought on Saturday as it resumed its Spanish league campaign after the winter break. Madrid center back Raphael Varane scored with a header after helping to play a part in an own-goal by Getafe’s goalkeeper to fuel a 3-0 victory at crosstown rival Getafe. The first win in four rounds by Zinedine Zidane’s team left it atop the standings at one point above Barcelona before the defending champions played at Espanyol hours later. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak made a pair of spectacular saves late in Atlético Madrid’s 2-1 win against Levante, ensuring it moved past Sevilla into third place on goal difference. Also, Valencia beat Eibar 1-0. Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético and Valencia will travel to Saudi Arabia to contest the new-look Spanish Super Cup next week. VARANE’S VICTORY Varane was already charged with anchoring a backline that was without the suspended Sergio Ramos. But he also came through at the other end to help get his team’s first goals after back-to-back scoreless draws. Varane was involved in an own-goal by Getafe goalkeeper David Soria to open the scoring in the 34th minute when they challenged for a high ball in the area. The Spanish league credited the goal to Soria, who appeared to knock the ball into his own net after failing to punch it clear. Varane doubled the lead in the 53rd when he was left unmarked to head home a free kick by Toni Kroos. Luka Modric added a third goal in stoppage time as Getafe lost its second of 10 league home matches this season. “We have made a good start to the year,” Zidane said. OBLAK'S SAVES Atlético got a third straight victory after scoring early and relying on Oblak to protect the three points. Thomas Partey started the attractive move that led to Correa's opener in the 13th when he played Kieran Trippier wide down the right flank. Trippier, instead of controlling the ball, used a precise single touch to send in a cross to the near post where Correa redirected it home. Roger Martí did well to level three minutes later for Levante when he swept in a lobbed pass for his ninth goal of the season. Atlético defender Felipe Monteiro hit right back for Atlético in the 19th with a powerful header. Atlético turned to Oblak to make two one-handed saves in denying Enis Bardhi late in the game. Oblak frustrated Bardhi’s excellent solo effort after he dribbled past three defenders before shooting off-balance. The Slovenia goalkeeper then surpassed that by stopping Bardhi’s point-blank header on one of the final touches of the match. “We all want to wrap the games up early, but we didn’t score the third goal that would have put it away,” Oblak said. “It was a reflex save and fortunately I stopped (Bardhi’s last attempt).” VALENCIA PREVAILS Valencia striker Maxi Gómez scored from a pass by Daniel Wass in the first half of a home win over Eibar. Valencia, which struggled early in the season, continued to climb up the table into sixth place......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2020

Barca and Madrid lead in Spain at winter break despite flaws

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Even though Barcelona and Real Madrid have yet to dominate like in past seasons, the two heavyweights are at the top of the Spanish league for the winter break. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona will head into 2020 with a two-point advantage over second-place Madrid after completing 18 of 38 rounds. Barcelona got off to a slow start with only two wins in the first five rounds before newcomer Antoine Griezmann started to click with Messi and Luis Suárez, and the Catalan club ended the year without a loss in seven rounds. “There are times when you win the league by a wide margin and when everyone expects you to wrap it up months in advance that it loses excitement,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who is seeking a third consecutive league crown with the team, said Tuesday. “It is better when you win the league on the last round and by one point.” Madrid has only one loss - a 1-0 defeat at Mallorca in October - but it has drawn seven games, including its last three. Its continued scoring problems since Cristiano Ronaldo left two summers ago have left it without a goal in five encounters. "We had difficulties at the beginning of the season, but now we are much better and strong defensively, improving every day,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said after Sunday’s 0-0 home draw with Athletic Bilbao. “Today we couldn’t score, but the important thing is to create the chances and we're going to turn this around in 2020 for sure.” A Sevilla side that has been revitalized by former Madrid and Spain manager Julen Lopetegui, and by the new players brought in by sporting director Ramón “Monchi” Rodríguez, is in third place at five points back. Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid has experienced trouble up front after losing Griezmann in the summer, but its revamped defense has kept it in fourth place, seven points behind Barcelona. PLAYER OF THE SEASON SO FAR Messi leads the league with 13 goals in just 13 appearances due to an injury that kept him out of the opening games. He is also credited with six assists by the league as he continues at age 32 to be the team’s best scorer and playmaker. An honorable mention goes to Karim Benzema for stepping up his play after the injury-hit Eden Hazard failed to make an impact since joining Madrid on a club-record transfer from Chelsea. Benzema is second in the league with 12 goals in 17 matches. SURPRISE OF THE SEASON The breakout player is Real Sociedad midfielder Martin Odegaard, who is playing at the Basque club on loan from Madrid. Odegaard has excelled as a precise passer and is leading one of the most attractive attacks in the league. Sociedad is in fifth place, just one point behind Atlético. Sevilla continues to introduce talented newcomers in powerful defender Diego Carlos and physical forward Lucas Ocampos, both of whom have stood out and are likely on the radar of bigger clubs. GOAL OF THE SEASON Suárez scored not only the best goal so far this season in Barcelona’s 5-2 rout of Mallorca on Dec. 7 but one of the best in his goal-studded career. The Uruguay striker wowed Camp Nou when he used an audacious strike with the back of his right heel to scoop the ball around the diving goalkeeper and just inside the far post from a tight angle. The goal put the perfect finish to a flowing passing combination between Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto to break down Mallorca’s tightly packed defense. It unquestionably goes into the annals of Barcelona’s most beautiful goals. WHO'LL BE CHAMPION? With Messi, defending champion Barcelona is favored to edge a Madrid team that has yet to replace Ronaldo’s missing firepower. Messi has led Barcelona to 10 league titles in 15 seasons. “We haven’t reached our ceiling,” Griezmann said after scoring the opening goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Alavés. “I am feeling good before the holidays. Messi is the best in the world. We have a great squad, and when we need a push, Messi provides it.” CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION While Barcelona and Madrid will surely get Champions League spots, Sociedad and a Valencia side that is coming on strong after a tumultuous coaching change could threaten Sevilla and Atlético for the other two berths. Getafe, which was in the running for a top-four finish last season until faltering late, cannot be ruled out despite its modest profile. WHO’S GOING DOWN? Espanyol earned Europa League qualification last campaign, but it has been in a mess since both top scorer Borja Iglesias and ex-coach Francesc “Rubi” Ferrer left for Real Betis in the summer. The Barcelona-based club is in last place after winning just two of 18 matches and it fired Pablo Machín, its second coach of the season, on Monday. Espanyol has yet to win at home in the league this season and its fans are asking for a goal-scorer - in addition to yet another coach - in the January transfer market. Leganés and Mallorca are likely to also feature in the relegation fight. Celta Vigo has been the biggest disappointment of the season so far and is also near the bottom. But with Spain striker Iago Aspas and former Barcelona midfielders Rafinha and Denis Suárez it has the talent to rebound if it shores up its defense......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2019

Barcelona wins with Messi hat trick, Suarez backheel goal

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — It was showtime for Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium. Lionel Messi had a hat trick. Luis Suárez scored with a superb backheel goal. There was even an assist by goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen to Antoine Griezmann's first goal in six Spanish league matches. With one of its best performances of the season, Barcelona cruised to a 5-2 win over promoted Mallorca on Saturday, keeping pace with Real Madrid and regaining the league lead. Madrid had beaten Espanyol 2-0 earlier Saturday to provisionally move to the top, but Barcelona's win left the teams tied on points and the Catalan club ahead on goal difference. The highlight of Barcelona's win was Suárez's 43rd-minute backheel goal, which came after a smart exchange of passes between Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto. De Jong made the final pass to Suárez who was near the corner of the six-meter (yard) box, and the Uruguay striker hit the ball with the back of his right foot, pressing it down and making it bounce off the ground over goalkeeper Manolo Reina. “I knew I had a difficult angle, my only option was to backheel the ball firmly so it would bounce and make it harder for the goalkeeper,” Suárez said. “It wouldn’t be impossible for the ball to go through if it didn’t bounce. Luckily it worked and it was a beautiful goal.” Barcelona's dominant performance had started with Griezmann's seventh-minute goal off a long pass by Ter Stegen, who quickly took a goal kick to set up the Frenchman's run from behind the midfield line. Griezmann entered the area and niftly tapped the ball over Reina. It was the second assist for Ter Stegen this season. He had also set up Suárez's goal against Getafe in September. Messi was at his best, scoring in the 17th with a superb curling left-footed shot into the top corner and then with another well-placed strike from outside the area in the 41st. He completed his record 35th league hat trick from inside the area in the 83rd after Suárez's pass. The goal also allowed Messi to take the league's scoring lead with 12 goals, one more than Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. Before the match, Messi was presented with the Ballon d'Or award which he won for best player of the year on Monday. Messi's three young sons carried the trophy out to him as the Camp Nou crowd chanted his name. Ante Budimir scored Mallorca's goals in the 35th and 64th minutes. Barcelona has won nine of its last 10 league matches, including four in a row. It has lost only once in its last 14 games in all competitions. It was the seventh consecutive away loss for Mallorca, which stayed in 17th place, one point from the relegation zone. MADRID STAYS CLOSE Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema scored a goal in each half to give Madrid its win over second-to-last-place Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The result extended Madrid's unbeaten run in all competitions to nine matches. It was the team's fourth straight league win, and the 14th in the last 15 games against Espanyol across all competitions. Varane opened the scoring with a low left-foot shot from inside the area in the 37th after a pass by Benzema, who sealed the victory with a shot from close range in the 79th after being set up by midfielder Federico Valverde. Madrid played the final minutes with 10 men as left-back Ferland Mendy was sent off with a second yellow card for a hard foul in the 83rd. Madrid played without several regular starters because of injuries, including Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, James Rodríguez and Marcelo. VALENCIA DERBY It was a three-goal night for Levante striker Roger Martí, but only two counted for his team in a 4-2 loss to city rival Valencia. Martí put the hosts ahead with a pair of goals by the 20th minute, but then netted an own-goal just before halftime while trying to clear a cross from inside the area. The ball hit his right knee and went backward into his own net. Valencia came back with two goals in two minutes by Kevin Gameiro in second-half breakaways, one in the 57th and another in the 59th. Ferran Torres closed the scoring in the 88th to give Valencia its fourth win in its last five league games. “It was a shame that own-goal just before the break,” Martí said. “It was an unlucky play.” Levante played with 10 men after defender Eliseo Falcón was sent off with a second yellow card in the 74th. Levante hasn't won the Valencia derby since 2016, having lost three of the last five. The result left Valencia in seventh place and Levante stayed in 11th. GRANADA WINS AGAIN Promoted Granada ended a five-match winless streak with a 3-0 rout of Alavés, moving to eighth with 24 points. Carlos Fernández, Roberto Soldado and Yangel Herrera scored second-half goals for Granada, which had lost four of its last five matches. Alavés, sitting in 15th place, had two players sent off — Wakaso Mubarak in the 67th and Víctor Laguardia in stoppage time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 8th, 2019

Barca snatches victory from Leganes

Barcelona needed a late winner from Arturo Vidal to beat bottom-club Leganes 2-1 on Saturday while Atletico Madrid lost further ground on the La Liga leaders by being held to a 1-1 draw away at Granada. Vidal poked in a fortuitous Barca goal in the 79th minute at Butarque after Luis Suarez headed home a […] The post Barca snatches victory from Leganes appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2019

Messi hat trick helps Barcelona halt winless sequence

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — After a rare bad foul that led to a yellow card and a Celta Vigo goal, Lionel Messi made up for his error with two perfectly struck free kicks to claim a hat trick and lead Barcelona to another victory. It was the 34th Spanish league treble for Messi, tying former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo for the most in the competition. Messi's hat trick gave Barcelona a 4-1 win over Celta on Saturday, ending the team's two-game winless sequence and leaving it joint top with Real Madrid, which routed Eibar 4-0 with two goals by Karim Benzema. Sergio Busquets also scored for Barcelona, which was coming off a league loss at Levante and a home draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League. "We needed this victory," coach Ernesto Valverde said. "A team like Barcelona has to rebound quickly after a setback." Barcelona and Madrid have 25 points, two more than Real Sociedad. The Spanish powerhouses have a game in hand because their "clásico" match was postponed until December due to last month's separatist rally in the Catalan capital. Messi put Barcelona ahead with a penalty in the first half, but his foul near halftime prompted a yellow card, and Celta's equalizer from a free kick by Lucas Olaza. Messi made up for his blunder with two excellent free kicks, one in first-half stoppage time and the other a few minutes after the break. Both times he sent a curling shot over the wall and into the top corner. "With Leo, anything is possible," Valverde said. "He is an expert with free kicks. Our opponents are always wary of fouling near the area." Messi has netted nine goals in his last seven matches in all competitions. He has eight league goals this season, one less than leading scorer Benzema. "You can't control Messi," Celta coach Óscar García said. "Without him, things would have been different." MADRID'S GOOD START Madrid scored three goals in the first 30 minutes to sweep Eibar aside. Madrid was up 2-0 by the 20th minute after goals by Benzema and Sergio Ramos. Benzema added another in the 29th and Federico Valverde netted in the 61st. The victory came three days after Madrid took a three-goal lead by the 14th minute of a 6-0 rout of Galatasaray in the group stage of the Champions League. Benzema's second goal and the strike by Ramos came from penalties after fouls on Eden Hazard and Lucas Vázquez. It was only the third away win by Madrid in 11 league matches since coach Zinedine Zidane returned to the club late last season. The team has kept a clean sheet in five straight matches in all competitions, since a 1-0 loss at Mallorca in the league. Eibar, which was coming off two straight wins, dropped to 15th place, staying six points clear of the relegation zone. VALENCIA WINS LATE Valencia bagged two late goals to beat Granada 2-0 and move closer to the top. Daniel Wass scored from close range in the 74th and Ferrán Torres struck in stoppage time to give Valencia its third straight victory. Valencia has the same 20-point haul as Granada, which got off to a great start in its return to the first division but has lost three consecutive matches. Valencia was coming off wins over Lille in the Champions League and Espanyol in the league. RED-HOT PÉREZ Lucas Pérez scored his seventh goal in as many matches as Alavés defeated Valladolid 3-0 to move further away from the relegation zone. Pérez converted a 75th-minute penalty for Alavés, which jumped to 14th with 15 points. The former West Ham striker has scored in each of his last seven matches, surpassing his overall goal tally for last season. Joselu and Tomás Pina had scored the first two goals for the hosts in the opening half. Valladolid, which is 13th, had lost only one of its last seven league matches......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 10th, 2019

Zidane goes back to formula that helped Madrid succeed

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — After an up-and-down start to the season, coach Zinedine Zidane is going back to the formula that helped Real Madrid succeed when he first took over three years ago. Zidane is looking to his "B'' team to try to keep Madrid in contention in all competitions, resorting to youngsters and players not often used in the main squad. It was the same strategy he used in his first season at the helm in 2016, when Madrid won both the Spanish league and the Champions League. "I have great faith in my squad," said Zidane, who returned to the club in March. "I've got 25 really good players and they have shown how good they are. When they get the chance to play, they have to be ready and have to play well." Zidane used just three regular starters on Wednesday in the 2-0 win against Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in the Spanish league. Only defender Sergio Ramos and midfielders Casemiro and Toni Kroos were not rested. Even goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stayed out of the starting lineup as Zidane looked to have his regular starters ready for Saturday's derby at Atlético Madrid. "We did a lot of good things in this game, I'm thrilled about that," Zidane said. "We made some changes but those who played showed that they are ready." Brazilian teenagers Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo scored against Osasuna, which left Madrid top of the league ahead of the city derby at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. "Zidane knows he can trust all of his players for the entire season," said the 18-year-old Rodrygo, who made his debut with Madrid's main squad. Madrid is unbeaten in the league but opened its Champions League campaign with a 3-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain. It hosts Club Brugge three days after the game against Atlético, when Zidane is going back to his main squad that features Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale. OPTIMISTIC GRIEZMANN Antoine Griezmann admits he is far from his best since joining Barcelona but is confident he will keep improving. "It's different, it's a different type of football," the former Atlético Madrid forward said after his team's 2-1 win against Villarreal in the Spanish league on Tuesday. "I'm playing in a different position. I knew it was going to be difficult for me, but also that I would keep improving match after match." Griezmann has scored three goals in seven games since joining Barcelona this summer after five seasons with Atlético. His best performance came in the 5-2 win against Real Betis in the Spanish league last month, when he scored twice. "It's not too bad," Griezmann said. "I can do better, but I've just arrived. I'm on the right track and will keep working to help my teammates. And if I can keep scoring, even better.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 27th, 2019

Félix sparks Atlético comeback; Bale scores 2, sent off

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — João Félix scored his first Spanish league goal for Atlético Madrid to spark a 3-2 comeback win over Eibar as his team kept its perfect record on Sunday, while Gareth Bale struck twice to salvage a 2-2 draw for Real Madrid at Villarreal before being sent off. Atlético's 19-year-old Portugal forward swept in a pass from strike partner Diego Costa in the 27th minute at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium after the hosts had trailed by two goals. Atlético broke its club record to sign Félix from Benfica after triggering the 126 million euro (around $140 million) buyout clause in his contract this summer. It made most of that money back from the exit of Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona. Félix scored several impressive goals in an excellent preseason. Félix was very active in the first half which saw Atlético reeling from Eibar's strong start. He twice drew contact in the area that the referee said wasn't enough to consider a penalty, before fading as the match wore on. Víctor "Vitolo" Machín and Thomas Partey then came off the bench to score goals in the second half to complete the comeback. Diego Simeone's Atletico is the only team to take a maximum nine points in the first three rounds. Defending champion Barcelona has four points in eighth place while it waits for Lionel Messi to recover from injury and debut this season. Madrid has five points in fifth place after Bale twice erased Villarreal's lead to secure a 2-2 draw on the road. But the Wales winger then received back-to-back yellow cards in injury time for dangerous studs-first challenges and will miss the next match after the international break against Levante. Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said he wasn't worried about his team's mediocre start to the season with just one win in three matches. "I think we did what we had to do, but we just didn't convert our chances," Zidane said. "But our way forward is this one. We can't complain about anything, except the first 15 minutes when we didn't start well." BIG COMEBACK Eibar went ahead on early goals by striker Charles and a deflected long strike by defender Artiz Arbilla. Vitolo scored to help win points for Atlético for a second straight week as a substitute. Partey finally put Atlético ahead in the 90th when he scrambled the ball past two defenders before knocking it through the legs of goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic. Simeone lauded the effort of his squad, which was overhauled this summer. "We have to remake this team. We want to win, win and win even more," Simeone said. "It is not easy when eight players leave and eight new players arrive for the team to still compete. We have to remain calm." MADRID SLIPS Gerard Moreno put Villarreal in front when he stole the ball from Sergio Ramos and set up Toko Ekambi to test goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian blocked his strike, only for Moreno to rush in and finish off the rebound for his third goal in as many matches. Madrid pressed for an equalizer. Karim Benzema hit the post moments before Gareth Bale scored his first league goal of the season just before halftime at the end of a long team buildup that included a key pass by Marko Jovic. Madrid dominated the second half until Moi Gómez was in position to tap in a cross in the 74th following a shot by Moreno which was saved by Courtois. Bale got the final equalizer in the 86th after he took a pass from substitute Luka Modric, cut back inside and slotted a shot inside the near upright. OTHER RESULTS Dani Parejo converted two penalty kicks to give Valencia its first win of the season with a 2-0 win over promoted Mallorca. Promoted Granada won 3-0 at Espanyol for its first victory since returning to the top flight. Before the matches there was a minute's silence in tribute to 9-year-old Xana, the daughter of former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. She died on Thursday from a type of bone cancer......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 2nd, 2019

I tried to copy Messi and LeBron, says Griezmann after Barca double

MADRID, Spain – Antoine Griezmann copied Lionel Messi for the goal and LeBron James for the celebration but it was his night for Barcelona on Sunday, August 25, after he scored twice in a 5-2 win over Real Betis. Griezmann imitated the basketball superstar by tossing confetti into the air to ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsAug 26th, 2019

Bale and Benzema lead Madrid to opening Spanish league win

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Zinedine Zidane's revamped Real Madrid got the spark it needed from a couple of veterans to get off to a winning start in the Spanish league. In the absence of injured new signing Eden Hazard, it was Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale who contributed with goals and assists as Madrid comfortably won at Celta Vigo 3-1 on Saturday. Bale, who many thought would be gone from the squad by now, set up Benzema's opening goal, then Toni Kroos and Lucas Vázquez added to the lead in a match in which Madrid played most of the second half with 10 men following a red card to Luka Modric. After Madrid's attempts to transfer Bale failed, Zidane started the Wales forward at Balaídos Stadium. "He is going to stay," said Zidane, who last month was outspoken about Bale's transfer being good for everyone. "We have reason to feel positive about all the players that we have in the squad right now." It was Madrid's first away win since Zidane returned as coach late last season. The team is trying to rebound from one of its worst campaigns in decades, when it was out of title contention several weeks before the end of last season. "It was important to get off to a good start," Zidane said. "It was great to get the three points in a difficult away match like this. We leave with a good feeling." Benzema opened the scoring from close range after Bale's perfectly timed low cross in front of the goal in the 12th minute. Modric was sent off early in the second half after video review showed he fouled an opponent from behind. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made a spectacular reflex save off a close-range header on the ensuing free kick, and moments later Kroos added to Madrid's lead with a superb long-range shot into the top corner. Substitute Vázquez sealed the victory after a pass by Benzema following a nifty spin move by the French striker outside the area. Without Hazard, who picked up a muscle injury in a training session on Friday, Zidane began the season with a 4-3-3 formation; Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane were flanked by Marcelo and Odriozola in the defense, Casemiro guarded Kroos and Modric in midfield, and Vinícius Jr. joined Benzema and Bale in the attack. Playmaker James Rodríguez, who also was expected to leave in the offseason after his loan to Bayern Munich ended, was on the bench. On Friday, two-time defending champion Barcelona lost at Athletic Bilbao 1-0 for its first opening defeat in a decade. VALENCIA'S LATE SETBACK Valencia was held by Real Sociedad to a heartbreaking 1-1 draw at home after conceding an equalizer in stoppage time shortly after missing a penalty kick that would have increased its lead. Forward Kevin Gameiro had a chance to seal the victory five minutes into injury time but sent his shot from the spot over the crossbar. Mikel Oyazarbal evened the match by converting his own shot from the spot after a player on the Valencia wall touched the ball with his hand on a free kick. OTHER RESULTS Granada rallied from two goals down in the final 20 minutes of its 4-4 draw at Villarreal, while promoted Mallorca edged Eibar 2-1. Osasuna, another team back in the top flight, won at Leganés 1-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 18th, 2019

Without Messi, Barcelona loses 1st league opener in 10 years

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Barcelona lost its opening Spanish league match for the first time in a decade on Friday, falling at Athletic Bilbao 1-0 as Antoine Griezmann couldn't make up for Lionel Messi's absence. Veteran striker Aritz Aduriz scored from a spectacular overhead kick a minute after coming off the bench in the 88th minute, handing Barcelona the loss after 10 straight opening league wins. Griezmann, Barcelona's biggest offseason signing, was held scoreless in his competitive debut after joining from rival Atlético Madrid for 120 million euros ($133 million). It was a lackluster performance for the France forward whose only significant scoring chance came with a header in the final minutes. "The ball didn't go in, and in the end that's what matters the most," Griezmann said. "We have to keep working hard to improve and to rebound as soon as possible." Griezmann didn't have Messi by his side because the Argentina star is nursing a right calf injury, and he couldn't count on Luis Suárez either after the Uruguay striker had to be replaced in the first half because of an apparent muscle injury at San Mamés Stadium. Philippe Coutinho couldn't play because of a pending move to Bayern Munich on a loan, but youngster Frenkie de Jong made his competitive debut with the Catalan club after joining from Ajax. Barcelona had most of the significant chances, being denied by the woodwork a few times, including with a shot by Suárez just before he had to be replaced. "We weren't ourselves," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. "It happens. We are coming off a preseason, we have a lot of new players in the team. This will be good for us going forward, it's better to lose now than in the end of the season." The match seemed headed to a draw when the 38-year-old Aduriz, in his final season before retiring, came off the bench and scored with his amazing overhead kick from a right-flank cross by Ander Capa. The cross went over the Barcelona defenders and Aduriz reached high with his right foot to send the ball into the far corner and ignite the crowd of more than 47,000 at San Mamés. "Football is so beautiful sometimes because of things like this. It gives you chances like this," said Aduriz, a former Spain international. "It will be impossible not to miss this. I'm just incredibly happy to be able to choose how I'm ending my career, and to be able to do it at the place that I love the most." Barcelona's last setback in a Spanish league opener was in 2008, a 1-0 defeat at Numancia in Pep Guardiola's coaching debut with the Catalan club. Real Madrid, trying to rebound from one of its worst seasons in the last decade, opens at Celta Vigo on Saturday without new signing Eden Hazard because of a left thigh injury. Atlético Madrid, runner-up the last two seasons, hosts Getafe on Sunday without Griezmann but with 19-year-old Portuguese sensation João Félix likely in the squad......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 16th, 2019

Fans call for Neymar s departure as PSG beats Nimes 3-0

PARIS (AP) — Fans expressed their anger at Neymar with chants and banners demanding his departure as Paris Saint-Germain started the defense of its French league title with a 3-0 win over Nimes on Sunday. Neymar, who reported late to training from his summer holidays and has been linked with a move away from PSG to Barcelona or Real Madrid, was not included in coach Thomas Tuchel's squad. Some PSG hardcore fans mocked Neymar's behavior with one banner at the Parc des Princes saying "Get lost Neymar". Neymar, who became the most expensive player in the world when he moved from Barcelona to PSG for 222 million euros (about $250 million) in 2017, has made clear in recent weeks that he wants to leave the club. In his absence, PSG dominated from the start and monopolized possession to camp in Nimes' half of the pitch. Edinson Cavani put the hosts in the lead from the penalty spot in the first half before Kylian Mbappe scored his 63rd league goal near the hour mark and then set up Angel Di Maria's goal. Mbappe was in superb form with his trademark dribbles and bursts of speed, while new signing Pablo Sarabia worked well with his teammates and delivered several good passes from the right flank which destabilized the visitors' defense. Nimes held out until Pablo Martinez was sanctioned for an unintentional hand ball in the box following a VAR review. Cavani took the penalty and beat goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni with a powerful strike in the 24th. Sarabia was dangerous again in the 34th with a fine volley at the far post that drew a spectacular save from Bernardoni, and Cavani missed an easy chance from close range with a poor touch from Mbappe's cross. Mbappe fired the ball into the top left corner in the 57th for 2-0 after connecting with a cut-back pass from Juan Bernat, and then delivered a perfect assist to the unmarked Di Maria inside the area. The Argentina forward, who came on as a substitute, controlled the ball and beat Bernardoni with a left-footed shot for his 40th French league goal. OSIMHEN SCORES 2 Lille forward Victor Osimhen scored twice on his French league debut to help the northern side to a 2-1 win over Nantes. Runner-up last season behind Paris Saint-Germain, Lille hired the Nigeria striker this summer to compensate for the loss of Nicolas Pepe, who joined Arsenal. The 20-year-old Osimhen, who scored 20 goals for Belgian side Charleroi last season after starting his professional career in the Bundesliga, showed both his athletic abilities and technical skills to put the hosts in the lead. After Nantes gave the ball away in Lille's half of the field, Osimhen collected a lofted pass with perfect chest control, pushed the ball forward with a fine touch, surged past a defender with a burst of speed and scored from close range with great composure. After Zeki Celik's own-goal put Nantes back in the game soon after the interval, Osimhen was decisive again with nine minutes left with a near-post finish from Celik's cross. Turkish international Yusuf Yazici also made his league debut for Lille after completing his move from Trabzonspor. Although he did not score, Yazici came off the bench as a replacement for Timothy Weah to add a dose of creativity in midfield and came close with a menacing free kick which went just over the bar in the 78th minute......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2019

Ligue 1 2019-20: PSG set to dominate once again

By Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — After winning its sixth French championship in seven years last season, Paris Saint-Germain is expected to continue its dominance in what at times can look like a one-team league. For the Qatari-backed PSG, the minimum requirement remains the same: win the French league. PSG's ultimate goal is also unchanged: win the Champions League after years of repeated failures. With its 500-million euro budget — more than five times that of last season runner-up Lille — huge sponsorship deals and top-class players, PSG simply has no rival in a league lacking strength in depth. On paper, Thomas Tuchel's team looks even stronger than last season, when it was crowned champion with five games to spare despite a late dip of form. Amid persistent rumors that Neymar will leave the club and return to Barcelona, PSG remains a formidable attacking force with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria. It also strengthened its backline this summer with the addition of Dortmund defender and France Under-21 international Abdou Diallo, while recruits Idrissa Gueye, Ander Herrera and Pablo Sarabia will provide midfield stability and experience. Sarabia, Herrera and Diallo were included in Tuchel's starting XI last weekend as PSG sealed a seventh consecutive Trophee des Champions — the French equivalent of the Charity Shield — with a 2-1 win over Rennes. PSG took pride in the win, insisting on the importance of the trophy, the 40th since the club's inception back in 1970. But in reality, the only title that really matters in the French capital is the Champions League. Success in Europe's top competition has so far proved elusive for PSG, which has never been beyond the quarterfinals since Qatari backers QSI started funding the club with huge investment eight years ago. In the past three seasons PSG has gone out in the Round of 16, twice wasting strong first-leg leads. The last time it was against Manchester United in March, when PSG became the first team to be eliminated from the competition after winning the away leg 2-0. "We need to carry on in the league, we need to extend our domination," Mbappe said. "We lost two national Cups (last season), we will try to recover them. And there is the Champions League. We have come to a halt in recent years, it's up to us to find a solution and reach a new milestone." More than the offseason recruits, Leonardo's return as sporting director could be the decisive ingredient that was missing in PSG's quest for European glory. Leonardo, who became PSG's sporting director for the first time in July 2011 and held his role until May 2013, has been given full powers by club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. At a club where star individuals often appear more important than the team itself, Leonardo's return will mark a change of style in the players' management. A disciplinarian, Leonardo has warned Neymar that he would not let him go unless a juicy offer arrived and has reportedly criticized the Brazil star in front of his teammates after he reported late for PSG's pre-season training. "I don't have the key that is going to open the door to the Champions League," Leonardo said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper. "Who has it? Not me. I just want to be clear about our goal: the club is THE great institution at the heart of the entire project." PSG starts the defense of its title on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against Nimes. Lille hosts Nantes, Marseille plays Reims at home and Lyon travels to Monaco on Friday night in the season's opening game. NO MONEY, BIG GOALS After a calamitous season, Marseille's main goal is to return to the Champions League under new coach Andre Villas-Boas. Three years after American billionaire Frank McCourt pledged to revive the 1993 Champions League winners, Marseille failed in its bid to qualify for Europe's top competition and did not even get a spot in the Europa League. Villas-Boas subsequently replaced Rudi Garcia and, despite very limited funds to spend on new players, has promised to deliver quickly in his bid to restore Marseille's past luster. "I don't want to lose time with excuses," he said. "I'm hoping for a podium finish." Villas-Boas has lured 29-year-old forward Dario Benedetto from Boca Juniors and hopes he will be able to keep Valere Germain, Florian Thauvin, Dimitri Payet and Luis Gustavo at the southern club. "We don't have money, it's a shame but it's a reality," Villas-Boas said. "We have some problems related to Financial Fair Play regulations. Now I'm waiting anxiously for the end of the English transfer market because that could change everything for the other teams." STARS' EXILE Nicolas Pepe and Nabil Fekir have become the latest big names to depart the French league as the talent exodus to foreign clubs continues. After scoring 22 league goals for Lille, Pepe left for Arsenal while World Cup winner Nabil Fekir joined Real Betis from Lyon. Lyon's new coaching setup of sporting director Juninho and coach Sylvinho have yet to find a replacement for Fekir, who left in the wake of other top players including Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 7th, 2019

Upset with Barcelona, Atlético says it wants Griezmann back

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona's attempt to sign Antoine Griezman hit a setback after Atlético Madrid accused the Catalan club of negotiating with the player without its consent before his contract was over. Barcelona club president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed Friday the club is trying to sign the France forward, but Atlético told Griezmann's staff the player must report to the start of the team's preseason on Sunday "in compliance with his contractual obligations." Atlético said it felt disrespected after learning that Barcelona and Griezmann reached an agreement in March, just days after the team was eliminated by Juventus in the round of 16 of the Champions League. It said Barcelona and Griezmann had been negotiating the terms of the agreement since mid-February. "Atlético wishes to express its strongest disapproval of the behavior of both, especially FC Barcelona, for prompting the player to break his contractual relationship with Atlético at a time of the season when the club was involved in the Champions League tie against Juventus, as well as the league title race against FC Barcelona," the club said. Atlético said it believes the behavior "violates the protected periods of negotiation with players and alters the basic rules of integrity in any sporting competition, as well as causing enormous damage to our club and its millions of fans." Atlético said officials from both clubs met Thursday at Barcelona's request. The Catalan club asked for a deferred payment of the buyout clause of 120 million euros ($135 million), a request Atlético said it "obviously" denied. Griezmann's buyout clause was reduced from 200 million euros ($225 million) to 120 million euros on July 1. The France player had announced he was leaving Atlético before the season was over. Also Friday, Barcelona's president said Paris Saint-Germain doesn't want to sell Brazil forward Neymar. "We know Neymar wants to leave PSG, but we also know that PSG doesn't want Neymar to leave," Bartomeu said. Barcelona also introduced Frenkie de Jong, the 22-year-old midfielder who was signed from Ajax earlier this year for 75 million euros ($84 million). Spanish media said about 20,000 fans were at Camp Nou Stadium on Friday for the player's presentation......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 6th, 2019

Real Madrid extends Kroos contract until 2023

MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid says it has extended Toni Kroos' contract until the end of the 2023 season. The 29-year-old midfielder, whose contract was to expire at the end of the 2022 season, joined from Bayern Munich after winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014. He has helped Real Madrid win 11 titles, including three Champions Leagues and a Spanish league. Madrid just completed one of its worst seasons in recent years with a 2-0 home loss to Real Betis. The club finished third, eight points behind Atletico Madrid and 19 points behind champion Barcelona. Madrid is expected to revamp most of its squad under Zinedine Zidane, who returned as coach near the end of the season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019