Real Madrid triumph at rivals Atletico in spiky derby

Real Madrid triumph at rivals Atletico in spiky derby
Atletico Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Marcos Llorente vies with Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior (R) during the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF in Madrid on September 18, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 19 September 2022

Real Madrid triumph at rivals Atletico in spiky derby

Real Madrid triumph at rivals Atletico in spiky derby
  • Carlo Ancelotti’s side have started their title defense in perfect fashion, with a 100 percent record from six games

MADRID: Rodrygo and Federico Valverde scored to earn Real Madrid a 2-1 win over neighbors Atletico Madrid in a heated derby on Sunday to return to the top of La Liga.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have started their title defense in perfect fashion, with a 100 percent record from six games. This victory took Real two points above Barcelona, who had leapfrogged into first on Saturday.
The game was marred by racist chants aimed at Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior outside the stadium before the game, sparked by criticism of his dancing goal celebrations and a subsequent debate over whether that criticism was racist.
Fans also threw objects at Vinicius after a Real goal and aimed racist chants at him in the closing stages.
After another Brazilian, Rodrygo, broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, he danced in celebration with Vinicius, to the chagrin of Atletico’s enraged supporters. Some threw objects, including lighters, at the duo.
“Derbies are always important but today was a bit different for what happened during the week,” said Rodrygo.
“We responded on the pitch, and I only talk for myself. I am very happy to play well and to score another goal.”
Madrid were missing the injured Karim Benzema while the hosts picked Antoine Griezmann in the starting line-up for the first time this season, and they were on top in the opening stages.
Spurred on by the rowdy atmosphere, Diego Simeone’s side pressed high up the pitch and put Los Blancos on the back foot, with Felipe heading over and Dani Carvajal deflecting a Yannick Carrasco shot into the side netting.
Geoffrey Kondogbia launched an effort at goal which missed narrowly, but with Atletico dominant, Madrid landed a sucker-punch.
Aurelien Tchouameni scooped a delightful pass over the defense and Rodrygo smartly dispatched it past Jan Oblak.
Atletico tried to fight back, with a fierce drive from Griezmann flying past the post and Thibault Courtois denying Carrasco, before Madrid struck another killer blow.
Vinicius, persistently whistled by Atletico fans, combined with Luka Modric before hitting the post and Fede Valverde followed up to slam into the net from close range after 36 minutes.
The Uruguayan has four goals and two assists in seven games across all competitions, cementing himself as an essential presence on the right flank for Ancelotti.
“(Valverde) and Rodrygo are very special players, because they are what the modern footballer has to be,” said Ancelotti.
“They can play in various positions, they have something that stands out, technique, physique, we are delighted with them.”
Real Madrid have now won all nine matches they have played this season across all competitions.
They took the sting out of the game in the second half by trying to keep the ball. Atletico midfielder Koke was booked for a wild hack at Rodrygo.
It was Koke’s 553rd game for the club, equalling the all-time record set by Adelardo, who retired in 1976, but it was one to forget.
Mario Hermoso pulled a goal back when Courtois flailed at a corner and the defender finished with his shoulder into the empty net in the 83rd minute, but Atletico could not complete an unlikely comeback.
“This Real Madrid reminds me of the team that we had, with Diego Costa,” noted Simeone. “When there is that forcefulness, football is marvellous.”
Further racist chanting was aimed at Vinicius from some home fans, and Hermoso was sent off in stoppage time for battling with Dani Ceballos at a corner to earn a second yellow card.
It was a dismal end to a dismal night for Atletico, both on and, shamefully, off the pitch.


Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup
Updated 14 sec ago

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup
  • Kolo Muani made sure of the win for Frankfurt, surging down the left flank before placing a shot just inside the far post

FRANKFURT: Randal Kolo Muani scored twice as Eintracht Frankfurt came back from a goal down to beat local rivals Darmstadt 4-2 and seal a place in the German Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Frankfurt took an early lead when Kolo Muani leaped to head in a cross and missed two clear-cut chances soon after but was stunned when Mathias Honsak scored twice in the space of three minutes on counterattacks to put second-division leader Darmstadt ahead.

Rafael Borre was left unmarked in the penalty area just before halftime and capitalized to score and send Frankfurt into the break on level terms.

A powerful shot from Daichi Kamada put Frankfurt back in front in the 62nd minute but Darmstadt were not done yet and nearly leveled again when Phillip Tietz hit the post. Kolo Muani made sure of the win for Frankfurt late on, surging down the left flank before placing a shot just inside the far post.

Last season’s cup runner-up Freiburg left it late for the third cup game in a row to win 2-0 at second-division Sandhausen. Freiburg took the lead with an 87th-minute header from Philipp Lienhart and Nils Petersen added a second deep into added time after a goalkeeping error.

Freiburg’s first two German Cup games this season both went to extra time and none of its six goals in the competition have been scored earlier than the 82nd minute.


Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana

Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana
Updated 08 February 2023

Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana

Vlahovic inspires Juventus to 3-0 win at Salernitana
  • The result also meant the match was a surprise relegation battle with Salernitana just two points further back

SALERNO, Italy: Dusan Vlahovic proved he is back on form with two goals and an assist to help Juventus win 3-0 at Salernitana in Serie A on Tuesday.

That snapped a run of three league matches without a win for Juventus. The streak had left the Bianconeri just nine points above the relegation zone coming into the match at Salerno following a 15-point penalty for false accounting.

It also meant the match was a surprise relegation battle with Salernitana just two points further back.

But Vlahovic helped Juventus push away from the bottom three.

He scored his first goal for the club since October in the 26th minute with a penalty after Fabio Miretti had been fouled by Salernitana midfielder Nicolussi Caviglia, who is on loan from Juventus.

Juventus doubled their tally on the stroke of halftime when the Salernitana defense failed to clear a cross and Vlahovic’s wayward shot came through to Filip Kostic to bundle in.

Vlahovic did double his tally two minutes after the break with a precise shot into the bottom right corner following a Nicolo Fagioli through ball.

Angel Di Maria hit the crossbar for Juventus five minutes later, while Moise Kean saw an effort come off the post late on.


FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners

FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners
Updated 08 February 2023

FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners

FA Cup dream over for Wrexham and their Hollywood owners
  • The Welsh soccer club lost their FA Cup replay with Sheffield United 3-1 on Tuesday, conceding two goals deep into stoppage time

SHEFFIELD: For Wrexham’s Hollywood owners, the sequel proved to be a heartbreaker.

The Welsh soccer club owned by celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney lost their FA Cup replay with Sheffield United 3-1 on Tuesday, conceding two goals deep into stoppage time.

A win for Wrexham, the lowest-ranked team remaining in the famous old competition, would have set up a match in the fifth round — or the last 16 — with Tottenham and star striker Harry Kane.

Instead, it was despair for the team from the fifth tier of English soccer which has hit the headlines over the last two years after it was bought by Reynolds and McElhenney for $2.5 million in November 2020 on the recommendation of one of their writers.

Sheffield United forced a replay by scoring an equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time in the first game between the teams, which ended 3-3 at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Reynolds attended that game but wasn’t at the replay at Bramall Lane.

“So proud of these boys,” Reynolds posted to his 21.1 million followers on Twitter. “And the 4000 plus away supporters who gave it all.”


South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo
Updated 08 February 2023

South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo
  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group
  • Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links

BUENOS AIRES: Members of the South American candidacy for the centennial 2030 World Cup want to host the opening match in Buenos Aires and the final in Montevideo, where Uruguay won the first edition of the tournament.
Government and soccer officials representing the joint bid of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay held their first organizing committee meeting Tuesday. Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group.
One other bid has already been formalized: Spain-Portugal-Ukraine. Morocco and another joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are moving ahead.
Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links. Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930 and won the first title by beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.
“FIFA has the obligation of honoring the memory of those who came before us and made the first World Cup,” he said. “At the end, the ones who want it more win it. And in that Argentina and all of our countries have a tradition.”
FIFA will make the decision in 2024, two years before the next edition of the tournament takes place in the United States, Mexico and Canada with 48 teams for the first time.
Chile sports minister Alexandra Benado Vergara said Argentina’s World Cup title in Qatar gives an extra push to the South American bid, which she sees as stronger since other nations joined Uruguay’s initially single-nation candidacy.
“Argentina’s victory is also the victory of our region,” Vergara said. “We can totally say we will have a bid that is sustainable, clear, austere during these times of our region and the world.”
Vergara’s Uruguayan counterpart Sebastián Bauzá said South America “feels we have the right to organize that World Cup.”
Argentina’s Fernández said on his social media channels he wanted to add Bolivia to the bid because “this is the candidacy of the entire continent. That is why I will propose that Bolivia become a part of this dream.”


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal stun Flamengo of Brazil to reach Club World Cup final

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal stun Flamengo of Brazil to reach Club World Cup final
Updated 08 February 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal stun Flamengo of Brazil to reach Club World Cup final

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal stun Flamengo of Brazil to reach Club World Cup final
  • Two first-half goals by World Cup hero Salem Al-Dawsari and a third by Luciano Vietto after the break stunned the Brazilians
  • The Riyadh side will face Real Madrid or Egyptian side Al-Ahly, who play on Wednesday, in the final on Saturday

TANGIER: Al-Hilal are just 90 minutes from being crowned world champions, after a stunning 3-2 victory on Tuesday over Brazilian giants, and Copa Libertadores title holders, Flamengo in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup in the Moroccan city of Tangier.

Al-Hilal, the most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia, already have dozens of trophies in their cabinet back home but have never come so close to a prize such as this.

Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr might have secured the services of high-profile signing Cristiano Ronaldo but Al-Hilal are now just one win away from a level of international glory unprecedented in the Kingdom. Coming just a few months after the national team’s victory over Argentina at the Qatar World Cup, these are heady times for Saudi football indeed.

Success in the final on Saturday would be the crowning achievement for Al-Hilal, though they are likely to find Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club on the planet, determined to block their path to glory.

Should the 14-time European champions lose their semi-final on Wednesday, Al-Hilal’s opposition will be Egyptian side Al-Ahly in what would be the ultimate dream match-up for fans in the Arab region.

The most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia have dozens of trophies in their cabinet back home but have never come close to a prize such as the FIFA Club World Cup. (Twitter/@AlHilal_FC)

Either way, it will be a huge occasion for Al-Hilal who, at the very least, have already improved upon two fourth-place finishes in their previous appearances in the tournament.

After coming through a grueling last-eight test against local favorites Wydad AC just three days previously, Ramon Diaz’s men delivered more than simply a battling performance on Tuesday, it was an intelligent and controlled one as well.

Just as Salem Al-Dawsari stunned Argentina with the winning goal for Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in November, so he stunned the Brazilian side with two first-half goals at the Ibn Batouta Stadium.

Both came from the spot, with a Pedro equalizer in between, and the second came after Gerson was sent off. Luciano Vietto sealed the victory after the break, despite a late consolation goal from Pedro.

The drama began in the fourth minute when the referee pointed to the spot after Matheuzinho brought down Vietto. Al-Dawsari had a penalty at the World Cup saved by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny — a moment that, had it gone differently, might have made the difference in the Green Falcons progressing to the second round — but this time he made no mistake, shooting low into the bottom corner past the diving Santos.

The Brazilians were rattled on a cold and windy night on Morocco’s northwestern coast and gave coach Vitor Pereira, who took the job just over a month ago, much to ponder.

His frown turned upside down after 20 minutes when the Rio club equalized in smart fashion. Matheuzinho slipped the ball to Pedro just inside the right-hand corner of the area and his first-time shot flew low into the opposite corner past Abdullah Al-Mayouf. Seconds later, the Brazilians almost scored a second when the goalkeeper came out and missed a left-sided cross.

But it was Al-Hilal who finished the first half asking questions of the opposition defense and they were rewarded with a second penalty, their third of the tournament, on the stroke of half-time. Vietto went down in the area and after a video review, Gerson, already booked, was shown a second yellow. Once again, Al-Dawsari stepped up and, once again, scored.

The win was a mature, hard-working and composed performance from the Asian champions. (Twitter/@Alhilal_EN)

With a one-goal and one-man advantage, the Saudis were just 45 minutes from dreamland. They started the second half with composure, holding onto the ball and moving it around sharply and with growing confidence. The game began to open up as Flamengo were forced to attack and, as a result, leave bigger and bigger gaps at the back.

The South Americans were finally punished with 20 minutes remaining. The ball was fed to Vietto inside the area and he fired home into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations among the visiting Saudi fans and on the Al-Hilal bench.

To their credit, Flamengo continued to push forward and there were nerves on display as Pedro bundled the ball home from close range in the first minute of stoppage time. But overall, this was a mature, hard-working and composed performance from the Asian champions.

Now, a team that came close to crashing out of the competition against Wydad on Saturday, eventually winning 5-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1, have a chance to make magnificent history. Just getting to the final is a fine achievement but a return to Riyadh as world champions would never be forgotten.

After the national team’s World Cup victory over Argentina in November, and now Al-Hilal’s triumph over the South American champions, even Real Madrid will not be feared. Anything is possible for Saudi football at the moment, it seems.