Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema shoots and misses a penalty during the Spanish league mach against Osasuna on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 October 2022

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick
  • It was the third straight penalty miss by Benzema against the Osasuna goalkeeper

MADRID: It was not the return to action that Karim Benzema had hoped for.

Back in Real Madrid’s squad after a long injury layoff, the France striker missed a second-half penalty kick that helped to end the team’s perfect start to the season.

Madrid’s streak of nine straight victories in all competitions was halted after a 1-1 home draw against 10-man Osasuna in the Spanish league on Sunday.

The result also cost Madrid the league lead, as it was surpassed by Barcelona following its 1-0 win at Mallorca on Saturday. Both teams are tied on 19 points but the Catalan club is ahead on goal difference.

Benzema, who had missed three straight matches because of a right leg injury sustained before the international break, had a chance to give Madrid the lead in the 79th minute, but his shot from the spot was saved by Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

It was the third straight penalty miss by Benzema against the Osasuna goalkeeper. He had two penalties saved by Herrera in April when Madrid won.

And things were clearly not going Benzema’s way as shortly after the striker had a goal disallowed for offside.

“We needed Benzema to convert the penalty,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “He usually does. It was an accident that sometimes happens.”

Vinícius Júnior had opened the scoring in the 42nd after finding the far corner with what appeared to be a cross attempt into the area, but the visitors equalized with a header by Kike García in the 50th.

Osasuna went a man down when David García was sent off for the foul on Benzema that prompted the penalty.

It was Osasuna’s first draw after four wins and two losses this season, keeping the Pamplona club in sixth place. It got the point at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium despite playing without the suspended Chimy Ávila, one of its best players.

Ancelotti was without veteran midfielder Luka Modric and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois because of injuries.

A minute of silence was held before every Spanish league match in honor of victims of the tragedy at a soccer stadium in Indonesia on Saturday night.

VALENCIA RALLY

A goalkeeper’s mistake six minutes into second-half stoppage-time allowed Valencia to pull off a 2-2 draw at Espanyol.

Espanyol goalkeeper Álvaro Fernández thought a high shot by Eray Comert toward the goal was going wide and let the ball go, but it ended in the net for the visitors’ equalizer.

Fernández dropped to the ground in despair and later put his hands together over his head with a plea for forgiveness from home fans.

Espanyol was looking for its first home win of the season. It is winless at its stadium in seven straight matches, going back to last season.

The hosts had taken the lead with Sergi Darder’s goal in the 83rd after Gabriel Paulista opened the scoring in the 53rd and Joselu equalized for Valencia in the 56th.

Valencia, which stayed midtable, played with 10 men after Marcos André was sent off in the 85th. Espanyol, sitting near the relegation zone, had Martin Braithwaite red carded early in stoppage time.

SOCIEDAD’S GOALFEST

Real Sociedad picked up its second straight league win by beating Girona 5-3.

Alexander Sorloth scored twice and Takefusa Kubo added one of the other goals for Sociedad, which moved to seventh place.

Taty Castellanos was among the scorers for midtable Girona, which has lost two in a row.

BETIS FALLS

Real Betis couldn’t overcome a first-half red card and lost 1-0 at Celta Vigo for its second league defeat of the season.

Gabri Veiga scored a ninth-minute winner for midtable Celta, which was without coach Eduardo Coudet because of a trip back home to Argentina for personal reasons.

Betis lost Luiz Felipe in the 20th with a straight red card.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team remained near the top of the standings, as it was coming off five wins and a single defeat.


US beat Iran 1-0 to reach World Cup last 16

US beat Iran 1-0 to reach World Cup last 16
Updated 15 sec ago

US beat Iran 1-0 to reach World Cup last 16

US beat Iran 1-0 to reach World Cup last 16
DOHA: USA beat Iran 1-0 to reach World Cup last 16.

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
Updated 29 November 2022

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
  • Green Falcons complete training session at Sealine Resort Stadium

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s national football team on Tuesday completed a final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday at Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
The Green Falcons trained at the Sealine Resort Stadium under the supervision of coach Herve Renard.
Training included warm-up exercises before players were divided into two groups for tactical work.
Defender Mohammed Al-Breik was supervised by medical staff as the 30-year-old continued a treatment program for a calf muscle injury.
The team was expected to leave its facility on Tuesday night and head to Doha as part of its preparations for the match the following day.
Saudi Arabia is in Group C alongside Argentina, Mexico and Poland.


Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts
Updated 29 November 2022

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts
  • The Netherlands' dominant victory over Qatar meant only a win would see Senegal through to the knockouts
  • Senegal manager Aliou Cisse promised before the game his experienced side "would not overthink" the occasion

DOHA: Kalidou Koulibaly sent Senegal into the World Cup knockouts for just the second time in their history with the winner in Tuesday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ecuador.
The Netherlands’ dominant victory over Qatar meant only a win would see Senegal through to the knockouts from Group A, while Ecuador would have progressed with a draw.
Senegal opened the scoring through Ismaila Sarr’s penalty late in the first half, but despite managing to keep Ecuador captain Enner Valencia quiet throughout, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo levelled in the 67th minute before Koulibaly sent his team through and Ecuador home.
Senegal manager Aliou Cisse promised before the game his experienced side “would not overthink” the occasion and it was the Africans who opened the game furiously, with Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye lashing the ball just wide of an open goal after only three minutes.
Less than a minute later, Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez needed to bail out his side’s high backline, sliding in to stifle a counter well outside his box.
On the 10 minute mark, Senegal’s Boulaye Dia found himself one-on-one with Galindez, but he cut the ball just wide of the post.
Seemingly sparked into life by Senegal’s fierce opening, Ecuador pushed forward and won a free-kick 30 meters from goal, with the South Americans taking the opportunity for a rare breather before Valencia slammed the ball into the wall.
After the furious opening exchanges, both sides began to settle and the first half looked set to end goalless before Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie clattered into Sarr, giving referee Clement Turpin no choice but to point to the spot.
Sarr stepped up and coolly dispatched a fine spot-kick past Galindez, maintaining eye contact with the keeper as the ball went in.
Ecuador started the second half fresher and more determined, perhaps reassured that the Netherlands’ dominance over Qatar meant they only needed a draw to go through.
From a free-kick, defender Felix Torres rose high to head the ball on to Caicedo, who was waiting at the far post and slammed the ball home.
Senegal struck back immediately and in almost identical fashion, with Koulibaly lurking unmarked at the far post following a free-kick which was deflected into his path by Hincapie.
Coming into the match on a yellow card, Gueye picked up a second-half booking and will miss Senegal’s last-16 game against the winners of Group B.


Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16
Updated 29 November 2022

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16
  • The Netherlands put one foot in the next round inside the first half-hour as Gakpo scored in a third straight group game
  • Qatar suffered the ignominy of becoming the first home team in World Cup history to finish the group stage without a point

AL KHOR, Qatar: Cody Gakpo scored again as the Netherlands booked their place in the World Cup last 16 as group winners with a straightforward 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar on Tuesday.
The Netherlands, needing just a point to be sure of progressing, put one foot in the next round inside the first half-hour as Gakpo scored in a third straight group game.
Frenkie de Jong added another in the 49th minute as the Dutch cruised through in a flat atmosphere at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Qatar, already eliminated before kick-off, suffered the ignominy of becoming the first home team in World Cup history to finish the group stage without a point.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side ended with seven points at the top of Group A, while Senegal joined them in the knockout phase as runners-up after beating Ecuador 2-1.
The Oranje will next take on the second-placed team from Group B for a quarter-final spot at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.
England currently top that section and face Wales later on Tuesday, while the United States play Iran. All four teams are still in the hunt for qualification.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Netherlands coach Van Gaal.
“We’re group winners and we’ll most likely be playing a number two team, probably USA or Iran, and they’re playing tonight and we can watch them tonight.”
The Dutch have made a solid start as they look to put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia firmly behind them.
Qatar signed off from their long-awaited home World Cup with a whimper, securing their place in the record books as the worst ever hosts on the pitch.
“I think that we’ve played against a great team, probably one of the big favorites to go very far in this competition,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.
“It was a very tough game for us but I believe the team managed to compete at a very high level for many minutes.”
Van Gaal was able to give Memphis Depay his first start of the tournament as the Barcelona star continued his return to full fitness after a hamstring injury.
It did not take the Dutch long to slice through the Qatar defense, although Daley Blind could only scuff a fourth-minute attempt straight at goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
The opening goal arrived in the 26th minute as Davy Klaassen played in Gakpo after a neat move also involving Depay.
The PSV Eindhoven winger drove forward and drilled a low strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to score his third goal of the tournament.
The three-time World Cup runners-up took advantage of shoddy Qatar defending to double their advantage four minutes after the break.
Depay was denied from close range by Barsham but De Jong reacted quicker than a ponderous Pedro Miguel to poke the ball home from barely a yard out.
Substitute Steven Berghuis thought he had added a third midway through the second half, only for his goal to be ruled out after a VAR check for a handball by Gakpo in the build-up.
There was brief excitement for the remaining home supporters late on when Mohammed Muntari prodded the ball into the net, but the whistle had long since gone for a foul on Virgil van Dijk.
The Netherlands almost piled more misery onto Qatar in stoppage time when Berghuis’ excellent curling strike from range hit the crossbar.


Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup
Updated 29 November 2022

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup
  • Belgium arrived in Qatar as the No. 2-ranked team and one of the tournament favorites
  • The team need to beat Croatia in their final group game on Thursday to guarantee advancing to the last 16

DOHA: Belgium’s squad held a meeting where players aired their “honest” views about how the team can salvage their World Cup campaign, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said Tuesday.
Belgium arrived in Qatar as the No. 2-ranked team and one of the tournament favorites, but were unconvincing in a 1-0 win over Canada before losing to Morocco 2-0 on Sunday.
The team need to beat Croatia in their final group game on Thursday to guarantee advancing to the last 16.
Courtois and Belgium captain Eden Hazard played down reports of infighting in the squad that surfaced after the Morocco game.
Courtois did say, however, he and his teammates had a frank exchange of views at their training base in Al Rayyan on Monday.
“I did not feel like there were issues, but it is always good to have a meeting all together so everybody can share their thoughts,” the Real Madrid goalkeeper said Tuesday.
“This way, everything is sorted and I think that the best thing we can do is to be honest, because on the pitch we have to fight for each other. So being honest is the most important thing.”
There has been plenty of focus on a seemingly off-the-cuff comment by Kevin De Bruyne, the star of the team, in a pre-tournament interview with British newspaper The Guardian.
In it, De Bruyne was asked if Belgium can win the World Cup and he was quoted as saying: “No chance, we’re too old.” Against Canada, Belgium had six players in their 30s in the starting lineup, with four of them having accrued more than 100 international appearances.
One of them is Jan Vertonghen, who appeared to make a reference to De Bruyne’s remark when speaking after the loss to Morocco.
“Where did it go wrong?” Vertonghen said. “We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?”
Hazard said he had spoken to De Bruyne and that his long-time teammate “believes in us more than ever.”
“Sometimes in an interview, you say funny things you don’t really mean,” Hazard said. “I think he just wanted to say that we are older than four years ago. And he is right, we are older.
“Everybody is older. The defenders. Us, the midfielders. Thibaut is older than four years ago, it is what it is. I think Kevin is the first to have confidence in this group, otherwise he would not be here.”
Hazard urged his team to play with “no fear” against Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up.
“In two days, it could be our last game, so we have to play with desire to win,” he said. “If we go together on the pitch, 11 players, we can beat Croatia. I know it is going to be difficult, because every game in this World Cup is difficult, but we can do it. With the team we have, we can do it.”