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Lionel Messi and Liverpool shine in the Champions League

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — Lionel Messi and titleholder Liverpool were in top form in the Champions League on Wednesday. Messi scored one goal and set up another as Barcelona beat Slavia Prague 2-1 to take control of Group F at the group stage's midpoint. Liverpool overwhelmed Genk 4-1 to end a four-game losing streak away from home in the group phase. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made the most of a rare start to score twice and Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also got on the scoresheet for last season's champion. Still, Liverpool remained one point behind Napoli in Group E after the Italian club won 3-2 at Salzburg with a brace from Dries Mertens, who surpassed Diego Maradona for second spot on the team's all-time scoring list. Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund trail Barcelona by three points in a group where three heavyweights are vying for two spots in the knockout stage. Inter beat Dortmund 2-0 in the other Group F game with goals from Lautaro Martinez and Antonio Candreva. Messi floated a free kick to Luis Suárez at the far post and the Uruguayan's shot was deflected in by Slavia forward Peter Olayinka for Barcelona's winner. Earlier, Messi finished off a fast move he had started. It was the first goal for the Argentine in the campaign, taking his overall tally in Europe's top club competition to 113. TREMENDOUS TEENAGER Salzburg's 19-year-old forward Erling Haaland scored twice in the loss to Napoli, giving him six goals in three matches. That makes him only the second teenager in Champions League history to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition, after current Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema achieved the feat with Lyon. And he's the first player to score six goals in his first three Champions League appearances. Haaland now has 20 goals in all competitions for the Austrian club this season. Haaland's first goal came with a penalty, then he made it 2-2 by taking advantage of his 6-foot-4 (1.94 meter) frame for a precise header. He also had a score disallowed early on by the VAR for offside. SUPER SUBS Michy Batshuayi came off the bench and scored a late winner as Chelsea rode its luck to beat Ajax 1-0 and throw Group H wide open. The Belgium striker fired in off the underside of the bar from close range in the 86th, 15 minutes after coming on. United States international Christian Pulisic, another of coach Frank Lampard's subs, provided the cross. "It's what you want from subs," Lampard said. "Sometimes the toughest part of management is leaving out players that really want to play week in, week out, and you rely on them being positive, coming on and making an impact and they both did. Delighted for them both." The result left both teams on six points after three matches. Valencia, which drew 1-1 with Lille, is next with four points. It was another late Champions League stinger at the hands of a London team for Ajax, which lost the semifinal last season to Tottenham thanks to a Lucas Moura goal deep in stoppage time. LEIPZIG LEADS Leipzig leads Group G following a 2-1 comeback win over Zenit St. Petersburg and is in position to advance to the knockout rounds for the first time. Marcel Sabitzer scored with a sublime volley for the winner near the hour mark "It's without doubt one of the best goals of my career," Sabitzer said. Sabitzer also set up the equalizer for Konrad Laimer after Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy opened the scoring for Zenit. Leipzig has six points, two more than Zenit and Lyon, which lost 2-1 at last-place Benfica......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 23rd, 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

Messi, US captain Rapinoe win Ballon d’Or awards

By Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press After becoming the first six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, Lionel Messi said he’s far from finished. “I hope to continue for a long time,” Messi said on Monday in Paris from behind a row of the trophies which honor the world’s best soccer player. “I realize that I am very lucky, even if, one day, retirement will come. It will be difficult. But I still have a lot of good years ahead of me. Time goes by very quickly, so I want to enjoy football and my family.” While the 32-year-old Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or, United States captain Megan Rapinoe won her first. “I can’t believe I’m the one winning in this field, it’s been an incredible year,” Rapinoe said in a recorded video message during the ceremony at the lavish Theatre du Chatelet. Messi has received the Ballon d’Or previously in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk was second in the polling this year, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who shared the record of five Ballon d’Ors with Messi until Monday. Messi’s and Ronaldo’s 10-year grip on the award organized by France Football magazine was ended last year by Luka Modric. But Messi was back on top of his game over the past 12 months. He scored 36 times last season en route to a 10th Spanish Liga title, and was the Champions League top scorer. His goals in the Liga also made him the top scorer in Europe’s biggest leagues, earning him the Golden Shoe award. “A few years ago, I received my first Ballon d’Or here in Paris,” Messi said. “I was 22 years old. It was something unthinkable at the time. Today is my sixth Ballon d’Or. As my wife used to say, you should never stop dreaming but always work to improve and continue to enjoy yourself.” The Argentine has not showed any sign of slowing down since the start of the new European season, marking his 700th game for Barcelona last week with a goal and two assists in beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1. So far this year, Messi has 41 goals in 44 games. Messi also won his sixth FIFA award in September, edging Van Dijk, who missed the chance to become the first defender to top the France Football poll since Italy’s World Cup-winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, in 2006. Van Dijk clinched the 2019 Champions League crown with the Reds after obliterating Messi’s Barcelona in the semifinals. “It's been an amazing year, I was close but unfortunately there are a couple of players like (Messi). I am very proud,” Van Dijk said. He was among seven Liverpool players nominated, beside goalkeeper Alisson Becker, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and forwards Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Rapinoe won the women’s Ballon d’Or for leading the United States to World Cup glory in July. She scored six goals in the championship, earning her the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the top player. “I’m so sad I can’t make it tonight,” Rapinoe said on video. “I’ll do my best to get there next year.” France Football magazine has been awarding the Ballon d'Or since 1956 and created a women's award for the first time last year when Norway's Ada Hegerberg won it. Hegerberg was fourth this time. Lucy Bronze of England was second, and Alex Morgan third. Juventus defender Matthijs De Light won the Kopa Trophy for the best under-21 player, and the inaugural Yashin Trophy given to the year's best men's goalkeeper went to Liverpool’s Alisson......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2019

Spaniards with little to cheer for in Champions League final

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — It will be an unusual Champions League final for Spain. Madrid will be hosting the final again after nearly a decade, but the country's streak of having at least one team playing for the European title ended this year after five straight seasons, giving home fans little to cheer for when Liverpool faces Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday. The all-English matchup will be the first Champions League final without a Spanish club since 2013, when Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund in a match between German teams. Since then, Real Madrid made it to the final four times, Atletico Madrid twice and Barcelona once. "We were used to seeing Real Madrid in the final all these years," said Francisco Javier Diaz de Castro, a 55-year-old Real Madrid supporter. "It's a weird feeling to think that this time we won't see it fighting for the Champions League trophy. When we finally get to watch the final in Madrid, the team struggles and can't make it. I guess that's how it goes in soccer." Real Madrid won four titles in its recent streak, beating Atletico in 2014 and 2016, Juventus in 2017 and Liverpool in 2018. Barcelona lifted the trophy in 2015, and it had also won it in 2006, 2009 and 2011. There was at least one Spanish club in seven of the last 10 Champions League finals. This time, tough, as the Spanish capital prepares to host its first final since Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in 2010, Spanish clubs are already starting to plan their offseason. On Saturday, there are only two Spanish players with a chance of playing in the final — Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente and Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno. Here's a look at some of the reasons why there won't be any Spanish clubs in this year's final in Madrid: BARCELONA After dominating in the domestic competitions in recent years, Barcelona turned its focus on trying to win the Champions League again. It last won the competition in 2015, when it defeated Juventus in the final in Berlin. Barcelona cruised through a group that included finalist Tottenham, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven, winning four matches and drawing two to end six points ahead in first place. It also didn't face major difficulties as it got past Lyon in the round of 16 and Manchester United in the quarterfinals, being able to make it to the semifinals after three straight eliminations in the last eight. The team's dominance continued in the first leg of the semifinals against Liverpool, when it won 3-0 at the Camp Nou and looked set to finally return to the final. But the team collapsed in England, losing 4-0 to see its title hopes vanish. "We are still recovering from what happened in Liverpool. At least I am," Lionel Messi said last week. "Our performance was lamentable. It was a very tough loss for us." REAL MADRID The three-time defending champions never really got close to making it to the final. In a frustrating season that included two coaching changes, Real Madrid couldn't advance past the round of 16 in the European competition, being eliminated after a demoralizing 4-1 loss to Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It had won its group against Roma, Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow, but its campaign included consecutive losses to CSKA — 1-0 in Russia and 3-0 at the Bernabeu. The early Champions League elimination led to the return of coach Zinedine Zidane, who was at the helm when the club won its last three European titles. ATLETICO MADRID After four straight seasons reaching at least the quarterfinals, Atletico was coming off a disappointing group-stage elimination and was hopeful of playing in the final again at its own stadium. It qualified from a group that included Borussia Dortmund, Club Brugge and Monaco, but the draw for the round of 16 set up an encounter against Juventus and old foe Cristiano Ronaldo. Things went well in the first leg, with the Spanish team winning 2-0 at home, but Ronaldo thrived in the return match, scoring a hat trick in a 3-0 win that ended Atletico's hopes. VALENCIA Valencia was the only other Spanish club in the Champions League this season, and it couldn't get past a group that included Juventus, Manchester United and Young Boys. It finished third, ahead only of the Swiss club......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2019

Barcelona wants to redeem itself with Copa del Rey title

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Although Barcelona is still smarting from its collapse at Liverpool two weeks ago, the team has another cup final to play in this weekend. The Spanish champions can complete a second straight domestic double when it faces Valencia on Saturday in the Copa del Rey final. "It's the last game of the season and we need to win so we can go on vacation with a better feeling than the one we had after the match against Liverpool," Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet said. "That's why we want to win this final." Barcelona has won a record 30 Copa del Rey titles, including the last four, but it was eliminated from the Champions League by Liverpool after blowing a 3-0 lead from the first leg. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde could have a lot riding on the outcome of the game against Valencia, which will be played on neutral turf in Seville. While Valverde has had an almost impeccable record in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey since taking charge two years ago, many Barcelona fans now doubt he can win it all in Europe. So while another cup is almost expected by Barcelona's supporters, a loss to Valencia would increase the pressure on the club to consider a coaching change. Knowing his coach is under scrutiny, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Thursday that the club "completely backs Valverde." "We cannot knock this Copa," Bartomeu said. "After the Copa we will able to draw conclusions on how to improve and aspire to win it all in the coming seasons." Barcelona will play without striker Luis Suárez, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his right knee following the loss to Liverpool. Suarez scored 25 goals for Barcelona this season, second only to Lionel Messi and his 50 goals. Forward Ousmane Dembele is also out with a muscle injury, while goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen will most certainly keep his starting job after the club said Marc-Andre ter Stegen has pain in his right knee and won't be available. Valencia has had a very strong second half of the season. It surged up the league standings to finish fourth and earn a Champions League berth, and it reached the Europa League semifinals before losing to Arsenal. It will be seeking its eighth Copa del Rey title and first since 2008. "(Valencia) is a very compact, solid team, with a strong defense, a talented goalkeeper, which transitions very quickly to attack with players who take advantage of open spaces," Lenglet said. "We have to be very careful with Valencia because it is very dangerous." Dani Parejo will lead a Valencia attack that relies on the speed of strikers Rodrigo Moreno and Santi Mina, and forward Goncalo Guedes. Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia said Valencia took note of how much trouble Liverpool caused Barcelona with its aggressive pressure and relentless attacking. "Whenever a team beats Barca, you have to study it as an example," Kondogbia said. "But we have to be ourselves. We have to play like we know how and try to find the points where we can do Barcelona some damage.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 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

Barcelona s fall highlights team s Messi-dependency

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — If Lionel Messi doesn't come to the rescue for Barcelona, no one will. The Argentina forward has saved Barcelona time and time again over his career, coming up with extraordinary goals and incredible assists that have led the club to dozens of titles over the years. And it was his remarkable performance in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Liverpool that helped Barcelona overcome an off-night by the rest of the team. Messi scored two goals last week to put Barcelona in position to make it to the final for the first time in four years. But when Barcelona struggled again collectively in the second leg, Messi wasn't able to turn things around. Liverpool reversed the 3-0 loss from the Camp Nou with a spectacular 4-0 win at Anfield, extending Barcelona's European title drought for yet another year. The loss highlighted Barcelona's dependency on Messi, who put in a solid performance but couldn't produce any more epic goals to keep the team in the tournament. "We shouldn't blame anybody," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "We are a team in the good situations and in the bad situations. In the end, it's the coach who has to bear the responsibility." Catalan sports daily Sport called Barcelona's defeat "the worst ridicule in the history" of the club, saying the result in England was "unforgivable." A video reproduced online by Spanish media showed what appeared to be Barcelona fans verbally confronting the team's players at the airport in Liverpool after the match. Valverde rested Messi more than ever this season, knowing how crucial he could be in the decisive moments of the season. He had been key to the team in several occasions, either deciding games as a starter or when coming off the bench. The Argentina playmaker was rattled by Liverpool players from the start on Tuesday, at one point having his head shoved by defender Andrew Robertson as he prepared to get off the ground. Messi had a few good moments, though, including two great throughballs that Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez squandered in front of the goal. Philippe Coutinho also had an opportunity off an assist from Messi but couldn't capitalize on it. Messi missed a good chance himself, one that he would not normally miss, with the ball by his feet inside the area, but he couldn't get a shot on goal. Still, he had the most attempts for Barcelona, with two being stopped by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Barcelona had been mostly outplayed against Liverpool in the first leg, but Messi still scored twice to give his team the advantage. It was Ousmane Dembele who had the chance to add to Barcelona's result in that match, failing to score in a late counterattack that was started by Messi. The defense also faltered at Anfield, with Alba's mistakes being mostly to blame for two of Liverpool's goals. Barcelona also couldn't survive Messi's ordinary performance in the team's elimination against Roma last season, when it squandered a three-goal first-half advantage in the quarterfinals. "What hurts the most is that it has happened again," Valverde said. "I think it will take a long time for us to put this behind us." It had been a nearly perfect season for Messi and Barcelona so far, with the playmaker putting up some of the best numbers of his career and the club reaching the final stretch of the season with a chance to win the treble. Barcelona has already won the Spanish league, and it has a chance to win the Copa del Rey in a final against Valencia on May 25. But there will be no fifth Champions League trophy this year for Messi, who had promised at the beginning of the season "to do everything we can to bring that beautiful and coveted cup" back to Barcelona. Maybe next year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Mentality of giants : Self-belief fueling Klopp s Liverpool

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Like the rest of the soccer world, Juergen Klopp had his doubts. Given the scenario — the big first-leg deficit, the presence of Lionel Messi on the other side, injuries to important players — the Liverpool manager just wasn't sure, deep down, that his team could come back from 3-0 down to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. So he laid down a challenge. "I said to the boys before the game, 'I don't think it's possible, but because it's you I think we have a chance. Because you have the mentality of giants,'" Klopp said, recalling some of his final words before kickoff on arguably the greatest night of soccer in Anfield history. That Liverpool managed to pull off the most unlikely of 4-0 victories in the second leg is a testament not only to the quality of the team Klopp has put together but also the belief he has instilled in a group of players who don't know when they are beaten. They've shown it all season. The late goals — however bizarrely they have come — in wins over Everton, Tottenham and, most recently, Newcastle have kept Liverpool in the Premier League title race with Manchester City to the final weekend. The backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win over Napoli in the final group game in the Champions League, which sent the Reds through courtesy of the head-to-head tiebreaker of goals scored. The mental fortitude to rebound from losing to Real Madrid in last season's Champions League final in the most painful way, certainly for Mohamed Salah after his first-half shoulder injury in that match. So maybe the comeback against Barcelona was natural for this machine that Klopp has created, albeit one that has yet to win a trophy under the German coach. And it feels entirely justified that if Liverpool is to fall short in the Premier League — the team is one point behind City with a game to play — it still has the chance to end the season with some silverware in a competition that has become so synonymous with this storied English club, a five-time European champion. "I am really happy having another chance to get things right," Klopp said, referring to the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Kiev. "Last year, we felt we have to go back, we cannot let it stand like this. I am not sure it will happen again, so it's so special." For Klopp, it is a chance to end his six-match run of losses in cup finals stretching back to the 2013 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, when he was coach of Borussia Dortmund. Since then, he has lost two German Cup finals with Dortmund and then three title matches with Liverpool — in the English League Cup (2016), the Europa League (2016), and last year's Champions League. "I know what people say about me and losing finals," Klopp said in one of his many candid moments in a post-game news conference during which he often seemed lost for words. There's certainly no self-doubt among his players. Check out, for instance, Andrew Robertson pushing Messi on the head with two hands while the Barcelona forward was on the ground one minute into the match. This a defender who, in 2017, was playing for Hull but is now one of the most highly regarded left backs in the world. Look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, who — at the age of 20 — had the audacity to pull off a 79th-minute corner routine in which he pretended to walk away from the ball only to spin around and cross for Divock Origi to sweep in the fourth and clinching goal while Barcelona's defenders looked the other way. It was such clear-thinking amid the furnace that was Anfield on Wednesday. And then there's Origi, an afterthought at Liverpool at the start of the season after spending last year on loan at Wolfsburg in Germany before being reportedly close to sealing a loan move to Huddersfield. Now here he is, scoring the late winner against Newcastle on Saturday and adding two more against Barcelona three days later. Salah was out, recovering after a concussion. Roberto Firmino was missing, too, with a muscle strain. And Naby Keita was recently ruled out for the season. Even during the game, Robertson was taken off at halftime with a calf injury and captain Jordan Henderson played on after hurting his right knee in the first half. Henderson was everywhere in the second half, eclipsing more-esteemed Barcelona midfield rivals Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic and helping to nullify Messi as the Argentine dropped deep. "The belief we have in the changing room is amazing," Henderson said. "Look at the supporters and the lads." Indeed, the night ended with Liverpool's players and coaching staff standing arm-in-arm in a line in front of jubilant supporters in The Kop, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" — the club's anthem. Together, they'll head to Madrid for the final, feeling it's their destiny to win European soccer's biggest prize for the sixth time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Barca s reserves lose, Atletico fails to clinch 2nd place

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Spanish champion Barcelona sacrificed its unbeaten streak on Saturday to prepare to reach the Champions League final at Liverpool's expense. With most regular starters rested, Barcelona's 23-match unbeaten run ended in a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo on Saturday in the Spanish league. It was Barcelona's first setback since January and a loss at Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, and its first defeat in the league since November. The result meant little to the Catalan club, though, as it's fully focused on Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal next week, when it will travel to England defending a 3-0 win from the Camp Nou. Of more immediate concern was a leg injury to Ousmane Dembele, who had to be replaced five minutes into the match. "Apparently he has a muscle problem," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "We will have to wait until the tests tomorrow to see how serious it is." Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Sergio Busquets were among the players who didn't travel to Vigo. Celta loved the result, which moved it to 14th place and five points clear of the relegation zone. Barcelona clinched its 26th league title last weekend. ATLETICO'S MISS Atletico Madrid earlier missed a chance to secure second place after losing at Espanyol 3-0. A draw would have been enough for Atletico but it struggled from at mid-table Espanyol. Atletico can still clinch a runner-up finish on Sunday if third-placed Real Madrid loses or draws against Villarreal. Real Madrid is nine points behind Atletico with three games left, but it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker between the city rivals. "We still need a point, but it's still up to us to earn this point and finish second," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We have to appreciate the value of a second-place finish in this league." Atletico is seeking consecutive top-two finishes in the Spanish league for the first time since 1973-74. That was also the last time Real Madrid finished out of the top two in consecutive years. Espanyol, unbeaten in seven matches, moved to ninth with the victory, staying in contention for a Europa League spot. The hosts opened the scoring with an own-goal by Atletico defender Diego Godin just before halftime, then striker Borja Iglesias sealed the victory with goals in the 52nd and 89th minutes. Simeone's team hadn't conceded three goals in a match since March, in a 3-0 loss at Juventus in the Champions League. "We played a good first half but we weren't ourselves after conceding the own-goal," Atletico midfielder Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion said. "That was not the Atletico we are used to seeing." LEVANTE'S RELIEF Levante routed Rayo Vallecano 4-1 at home to move five points clear of the bottom three. Rayo, which was coming off a win over Real Madrid, stayed second-to-last, with little hope of escaping demotion. SOCIEDAD STILL BELIEVES Real Sociedad kept alive its hopes of grabbing a Europa League spot in beating Alaves 1-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

Barcelona shows it can also thrive without ball possession

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — There was Lionel Messi as usual, backed by many of the same supporting players. The main difference for Barcelona this time was the coach. Barcelona has reinvented itself under Ernesto Valverde, showing it can change its style when needed and still be successful. The match against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday was a perfect example. Barcelona was forced to relinquish its ball-possession game, but it still came away with a 3-0 victory that left the club in position to reach its first final since it won its last European title four years ago. "They were able to impose their back-and-forth game and it made it difficult for us," Valverde said. "We tried to slow down the pace but they kept pressing. I liked how we knew how to suffer and how we came up with answers. We pulled off a victory against a very strong team." Despite playing at home, Barcelona finished with less ball possession than Liverpool, 48% to 52%. It was the first time a team held more possession than Barcelona in the Champions League since the semifinals against Bayern Munich in 2015. "We played their game, their physically demanding pace. It was counterattack against counterattack," said Messi, who scored twice to add to Luis Suarez's opening goal at the Camp Nou. "We aren't used to that. We like having possession of the ball and making the opponent run after the ball. We were exhausted, but that's what the match demanded. We had to compete anyway we could." Liverpool also exchanged more passes than Barcelona (482-457), and ended with more attempts (14-11) and corners (5-3). Barcelona was pinned down on defense during parts of the game, needing 24 clearances against seven by Liverpool. "I don't know if we can play much better, to be honest," Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said. Valverde had hinted even before the game started that ball possession might not have been the main focus for Barcelona, adding the more defensive-minded Arturo Vidal to the starting lineup in midfield instead of the more technical Arthur. The Brazilian has taken over the role of Andre Iniesta as the team's pace-setter, becoming the man responsible for controlling possession. But although the back-and-forth game was supposed to favor Liverpool and its speedy attack, Barcelona ended threatening the most in the end, and it could have scored more goals if it had capitalized on a few late counterattacks. The defense also played a key role, holding strong when Liverpool pressed forward, with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen again coming through with a great performance and making a few important saves to keep the English team from getting an away goal. Barcelona conceded that away goal in a 3-1 win over Roma in the first leg of last year's quarterfinals at Camp Nou, eventually being eliminated in Italy after a 3-0 loss. "It's similar to last year, we also have a three-goal advantage, but look what happened then," Valverde said. "We still have to play well in the second leg.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Guardiola sounds tetchy but City exit doesn't seem imminent

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer br /> LONDON (AP) — Only six months into his Manchester City reign, Pep Guardiola has sounded tetchy and strained by the demands of English soccer. And the 45-year-old already seems to be counting down to his departure. Not just from City and the English Premier League but soccer completely. 'Manchester City is three years or maybe longer but I am still approaching at the end of my career like a manager,' Guardiola said in broken English in an interview with American network NBC taped in early December but only broadcast last week. 'I am pretty sure of that.' But the end is not imminent. Before City scrambles to start the search for a successor, Guardiola is clearly not planning an immediate escape from Manchester however chilly he is finding his first English winter. 'I will not be a trainer @ 60 or 65 years old,' Guardiola stated, looking ahead to the 2030s. And within City there is no sense Guardiola is taking his eye off the challenge of bringing the Premier League trophy back to the Etihad for the first time since 2014. Guardiola, who was particularly testy after Monday's league win over Burnley, is quickly discovering just how tough the competition is. City has opened the second half of the season in third place and is seven points behind leader Chelsea, which also has a game in hand, while Manchester United is only three points further back in sixth. Unlike in his previous jobs at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, there's no guarantee of a trophy at the end of Guardiola's first season and the comments to NBC will create uncertainty, if unintended, about his commitment to City. It is curious for anyone to announce so early into any job that they are already thinking about their departure. Even more so when you have been pursued for so long by City, which installed former Barcelona executives to make the club more appealing to Guardiola. But when City managed to land Guardiola, the club knew it was hiring someone not interested in long-term projects. Guardiola won a trio of Spanish titles and two Champions League crowns with Barcelona between 2008 and 2012 before vacating the Camp Nou dugout. Three seasons at Bayern Munich, collecting another trio of domestic titles, were enough for Guardiola before taking up a new challenge in Manchester. Guardiola might be obsessive when in a job, but he is not addicted to soccer or the limelight. Between the Barcelona and Bayern jobs, he was content to take a year's sabbatical living in New York. And in the United States, Guardiola was fascinated by an apparent 'American culture' in the workplace. 'People are not staying in the same place for a long time,' he said. 'They move a lot and I believe in that.' Guardiola's soccer aura has faded in England, with City's four league losses more than any rival in the top six. The latest impediment in the title pursuit was inflicted by Liverpool as former Bundesliga rival Juergen Klopp got the better of Guardiola. In Guardiola's first taste of the packed festive program in English soccer, City was back in action inside 48 hours on Monday. The game against Burnley started badly with Fernandinho being sent off but 10-man City did manage to claim a 2-1 victory. Rather than celebrating, Guardiola gave curt post-match interviews where he sounded irritated with the line of questioning about City's disciplinary problems and the interview about his future. It was far from a meltdown as Guardiola has to operate within the constraints of Football Association rules that restrict how coaches can talk about referees. A frustrated Guardiola talked about 'special rules' in England, reflecting how he is still getting accustomed to how soccer laws are interpreted by Premier League referees, rather than criticizing their quality. 'I have to adapt,' Guardiola said. Perhaps, Guardiola has sensed the glee that seems to greet each setback in England and claims his coaching reputation is reliant on being fortunate to have Lionel Messi among his Barcelona talents. Far from being egotistical, Guardiola accepts he is 'not exceptional.' 'I was lucky to train outstanding players in a big club,' he said. 'If I would have trained lower teams than Barcelona and Bayern Munich I would not have won this amount of incredible titles I have won. For the people who believe Pep comes here and City's going to win. No.' And no, Guardiola isn't already packing his bags and heading for Manchester Airport. Guardiola was quoted across British media on Tuesday as telling NBC that 'the process of my goodbye has already started' — a comment that never featured in the broadcast interview. The headlines, though, will do little to dispel the notion that Guardiola's dedication to City is wavering. ___ Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Ronaldo still positive for coronavirus before Barcelona game

Cristiano Ronaldo has tested positive again for coronavirus on the eve of Juventus’ Champions League clash against his great rival Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, according to media reports in Italy and Portugal. Portuguese TVI reported that Ronaldo “has once against tested positive for COVID-19” following a swab test carried out by Juventus. The 35-year-old is now […] The post Ronaldo still positive for coronavirus before Barcelona game appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 28th, 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 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

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 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

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:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 3rd, 2019

Hazard seeks 1st goal for Madrid in derby vs. Atlético

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Eden Hazard is hoping to score his first goal since joining Real Madrid when it visits Atlético Madrid in the Spanish capital derby on Saturday. After the "clásico" between Barcelona and Madrid, the derby is the most highly anticipated league game in Spain. And with Madrid leading La Liga by one point ahead of Atlético, the winner will put itself in early command of the title race. "You know what the vibes are like in these games, the passion, the rivalry between the fans, especially when you've got two teams from the same city, like Real Madrid and Atlético," Hazard said. "I want to score and win in the derby. Your mentality, in a derby that's key and what's even more important is your desire. When you're a football player, you know what derbies are like. You know what you have to do, you just have to win. You don't need your teammates to tell you that." Hazard joined Madrid in June on a club-record transfer of around 100 million euros ($113 million) plus add-ons. He has been considered by fans as a late replacement for star Cristiano Ronaldo, who left over a year ago. The Belgium midfielder has only made three appearances so far for Madrid due to an injury in the preseason. He was on the pitch for most of the humbling 3-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, then helped the team earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Sevilla last weekend when his performance stood out more for his defensive work rate than his attacking flair. He did not play in a 2-0 win over Osasuna in midweek as he was rested ahead of the Atlético match. Hazard will likely join Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to lead Zinedine Zidane's attack. The match at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium will bring Hazard face to face with former Chelsea teammate Diego Costa. Costa scored 20 times for Chelsea both in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 season, when he teamed up with Hazard to guide their side to a pair of English Premier League crowns. But Costa has scored just six goals in the Spanish league since returning to Atlético from Chelsea in the middle of the 2017-18 season. He finally got his first of this season on Wednesday, when he scored in a 2-0 win at Mallorca. "Diego Costa is the opposing player I want to come up against because he's my friend and we played together," Hazard said. With Álvaro Morata suspended, coach Diego Simeone will have no choice but to go with Costa to spearhead his attack alongside the 19-year-old João Félix. Costa scored four goals in a friendly against Madrid this preseason in New Jersey that Atletico won 7-3, but Simeone said that he expects Saturday's match to be a totally different contest. "Bale has taken a step forward, Benzema is playing at his best, and Hazard has incredible skills," Simeone said. "We have to take the game to our territory where we think we can do them damage. These are matches that are very competitive, ones that are decided in key moments and by details that swing the result one way or the other." Madrid leads the league with 14 points from six games. Atlético is one point behind in third place, trailing a surprisingly good Real Sociedad on goal difference. Defending champion Barcelona, which faces a trip to Getafe earlier on Saturday most likely without the injured Lionel Messi, is four points off the pace in sixth place......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 28th, 2019

Messi sidelined again because of muscle injury

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona says Lionel Messi will be sidelined because of a muscle injury picked up in the first half against Villarreal in a Spanish league match on Tuesday. The club says Messi has a left abductor injury but did not give a timeline for his recovery. Spanish media says Messi is expected to miss the league game at Getafe on Saturday and is doubtful for the Champions League match against Inter Milan on Wednesday. Messi made his first start of the season against Villarreal following a long layoff because of a right calf injury sustained in the preseason. Messi played his first minutes of the season when he came off the bench in the second half of a 0-0 draw against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week. He also came off the bench in the second half of the 2-0 loss at Granada in the Spanish league on Sunday. Messi set up Antoine Griezmann's opening goal early in the match against Villarreal, then got hurt near the half-hour mark at Camp Nou Stadium. The playmaker left the field and doctors attended to his leg for few minutes before he eventually returned and finished the half. He was replaced by Ousmane Dembele at halftime......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 26th, 2019