Stoppage-time goal puts Real Madrid back in Spanish league lead after Girona are held by Real Betis

Stoppage-time goal puts Real Madrid back in Spanish league lead after Girona are held by Real Betis
Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez scores their first goal with a header during the Spanish league soccer match between Deportivo Alaves and Real Madrid on Thursday. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 December 2023
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Stoppage-time goal puts Real Madrid back in Spanish league lead after Girona are held by Real Betis

Stoppage-time goal puts Real Madrid back in Spanish league lead after Girona are held by Real Betis
  • Madrid and Girona are tied on 45 points but Madrid were ahead on a tiebreaker
  • Madrid have conceded only 11 goals so far this season, the best mark among all Spanish league clubs

MADRID: Lucas Vazquez scored with a header in stoppage-time to put Real Madrid back at the top in the Spanish league on Thursday.

After Girona conceded a late equalizer in their 1-1 draw at Real Betis, Madrid pulled off a 1-0 win on the road against Alaves to reclaim first place after 18 rounds.

Madrid and Girona are tied on 45 points but Madrid were ahead on a tiebreaker. Defending champion Barcelona was third, seven points off the lead. The Catalan club edged last-place Almeria 3-2 at home on Wednesday.

Madrid got the late win despite playing with 10 men from the 54th minute after central defender Nacho Fernandez was sent off with a straight red card for a hard foul.

Vazquez were left free inside the area to score the winner with a header after a well-placed corner-kick cross by Toni Kroos.

Jude Bellingham and Rodrygo, the leaders of Madrid’s attack this season, were kept in check during most of the match in a lackluster performance by Carlo Ancelotti’s team at Mendizorroza Stadium. Neither team was able to create many significant scoring chances.

After Nacho was sent off, Ancelotti was forced to replace Luka Modric with midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, who went into Nacho’s position in the middle of the defense.

Madrid has been playing with a squad depleted by injuries, especially in defense. Last Sunday, David Alaba became the third Madrid player to tear an anterior cruciate knee ligament. Éder Militão and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also sustained the same type of injury.

Antonio Rudiger started alongside Nacho in defense on Thursday.

Forward Rodrygo had to be helped off the field with another injury in stoppage time.

Madrid have conceded only 11 goals so far this season, the best mark among all Spanish league clubs.

It was the third loss in a row for Alaves, who are sitting in 16th place, three points clear from the relegation zone.

Madrid’s next league game is at home against Mallorca on Jan. 3. Alaves visits Real Sociedad on Jan. 2.

GIRONA’S SETBACK

Girona opened the scoring with a penalty kick converted by Artem Dovbyk in the 39th, but the hosts equalized with German Pezzella in the 88th after a loose ball inside the area.

It was only the second time Girona failed to win in their last 12 matches in all competitions. They had won eight of its last nine league matches, including 4-2 at Barcelona two rounds ago. A 3-0 loss to Madrid at home in September is the team’s lone defeat so far this season.

They faced another tough test against a Betis team fighting for European places and yet to lose at home in the league.

“This goal in the end is very upsetting, we thought we had it won,” Girona captain Aleix Garcia said. “But we have to value this point, they pressure a lot here. We have to maintain this dynamic and recharge our batteries for what’s ahead.”

Girona’s next league match is another difficult one, against fourth-place Atletico Madrid at home on Jan. 3.

SOCIEDAD HELD

Sixth-place Sociedad couldn’t manage more than a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Cadiz.

The hosts sit in 17th place, just outside the demotion zone, and haven’t won in 16 consecutive matches in all competitions.

Sociedad are now winless in three straight games.

Mallorca came from behind to defeat Osasuna 3-1 at home.

It was the second win in the last three league matches for Mallorca, who moved to 14th place.

Osasuna, sitting in 13th place, has won only one of its last eight league games — 1-0 against Rayo Vallecano in the previous round.


New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight
Updated 38 sec ago
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New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight
  • Uruguayan coach, whose side travel to Al-Fayha on Thursday, achieved dramatic last-gasp win over fellow relegation battlers Al-Riyadh at the weekend

RIYADH: Leonardo Ramos, the new Al-Tai manager, believes the club’s victory in his debut match could be vital to secure Roshn Saudi League football next season.

Ramos oversaw a dramatic 2-1 win for the Hail club at 10-man Al-Riyadh on Friday in the capital courtesy of a Khalid Al-Shuwayyi own goal 12 minutes into injury time.

The win lifted Al-Tai, who had gone four games without victory prior to the Uruguayan’s arrival, out of the relegation zone and into 14th place in the 18-team league.

“I know that every player in the team needs to bring his best abilities on the field, so the reason for my presence is my experience in ensuring this happens,” Ramos said. “Certainly, the ultimate goal is to play with greater performances and to improve the level and position of the club in the table. The win benefits this.

“The league is definitely approaching the end faster than I would have liked, but I think we can help the players a lot,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of games before I came here, and game by game we’ll have more vision. We were so happy because this was our first game together — and we are happy to have improved our position in the table. We have gone up in the table and that’s important.”

Al-Tai’s opener on Friday night at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh came from Bernard Mensah in first-half injury time. Al-Riyadh saw Abdullah Al-Khairbari red-carded just after the interval but equalized through Abdulhadi Al-Harajin. This came before Al-Shuwayyi watched in horror as a cross ball trundled into the net off his shoulder deep into stoppage time.

Ramos, 54, who earned eight caps for his country as a player, previously managed Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabian football in 2018 and was most recently in charge of Montevideo City Torque in his home country. He replaced Romanian national Laurentiu Reghecampf as Al-Tai manager.

Next up for Ramos and Al-Tai is a trip to Al-Fayha on Thursday, with kickoff at 6 p.m. The club then conclude their campaign with matches versus Al-Khaleej, Al-Raed, Al-Fateh, Al-Hilal and a final-day-of-the-season clash with fellow relegation battlers Al-Okhdood.

The Roshn Saudi League bottom five spots has Al-Hazem last on 16 points, followed by Al-Okhdood on 24, Abha and Al-Riyadh on 25 — with the former in the drop zone due to a considerably inferior goal difference — and then Al-Tai on 26 points. With the standings so tight, Ramos knows exactly what is needed now.

“For sure we need to continue working on improving performances,” the Uruguayan said. “I believe we played an outstanding match (against Al-Riyadh), although there were times that we lacked the rhythm, team spirit, and overall performance. Most of the time, we played on the sides and at the back, and we did not move progressively enough towards the opponent’s goal.

“However, we showed determination and desire to win, and we made some changes in the second half of the match to improve the result and achieve the victory, which we succeeded in at the end. I am very happy to work with the players, and the club overall, and achieving the victory was a great result.”

 


Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
Updated 23 April 2024
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Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
  • Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns

MILAN: Inter Milan sealed the Serie A title on Monday after beating AC Milan 2-1 and creating an unassailable lead at the top of the league with their sixth straight derby victory.
Goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram gave Inter a 17-point advantage over closest challengers Milan and secured their 20th league crown with five matches of the season remaining.
Inter last won Serie A in 2021, followed by AC Milan in 2022 and Napoli last year.
For Simone Inzaghi it was the first league title as a manager and on a cold, soaking wet evening at the San Siro he strode proudly in front of a clutch of Inter’s “away” fans in the 75,000 crowd as they roared in delight and fired fireworks from the stands at the final whistle.
Milan made a fight of it in the final moments after Fikayo Tomori pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining but Inter held out to kick off a title party after a stormy ending to the match which featured three red cards.
“I feel like crying because we worked so hard, we deserve this joy,” said tearful captain Lautaro Martinez.
“It’s been wonderful but we have to keep going because we’ve already won a lot of trophies and we want to win many more.”
Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns.
Inzaghi’s team did it style, laying waste to the rest of the division and becoming the first team to claim the title by winning the Milan derby and leaving his opposite number Pioli on the verge of the sack.
“He was struggling 14 months ago according to the media and look what he has achieved since. I am happy here, I work well and I think the team has margin for improvement,” insisted 2022 Scudetto winner Pioli.
With outgoing champions Napoli crashing and burning early in the campaign and Milan falling away in the autumn Inter raced off into the distance at the turn of the year.
Juve looked like putting up a fight but they collapsed in February just as Inter strung together a run of 13 wins which also gave them hope of repeating a deep run in the Champions League.
Inter failed in that mission as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in mid-March, but by that time the domestic damage had already been done.
The future looks bright too as Inzaghi, Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are all set to renew their contracts while smart work in the transfer market and increased revenue have helped mitigate significant financial harm wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi will arrive from Napoli and Porto as free agents in the close season while big stars like Thuram should stay.
“Crazy feeling, crazy game. We wanted to do it for our fans and we did it. It’s my first league title and I’m very proud of it,” said Thuram.
The nominal away side on Monday, Inter were on their way to a title party in the 18th minute when Acerbi was left completely free to head home Benjamin Pavard’s flick-on.
Inter should have been two ahead seven minutes later through Lautaro Martinez who lost his footing when Federico Dimarco’s perfect cut-back fell to the Argentina striker.
And his strike partner Thuram was equally at fault for Inter not increasing their lead seven minutes before the break as he shot a great chance just wide after being set up by Nicolo Barella.
But shortly after half-time Thuram made up for that miss with a brilliant individual goal which took his tally for his debut Serie A season to 12.
France forward Thuram collected Alessandro Bastoni’s long pass on the left and eventually cut inside before drilling home at Mike Maignan’s near post.
Yann Sommer did well to keep out Theo Hernandez’s well-struck shot as Milan fans let go a barrage of flares in the stands.
The resulting smoke mixed with the persistent rain to create an misty atmosphere around the San Siro, and just as Inter looked set to see the match out Tomori made sure it would be a grandstand finish when he headed home on the rebound.
However instead of levelling the match Milan lost their heads, with both Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria receiving straight red cards in stoppage time.
Inter’s Denzel Dumfries was also sent off in the closing minutes, but that will matter less to his team who danced and bounced in front of joyous fans.


Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 22 April 2024
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Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • A 4-1 win secured second spot in Group A of the tournament which also provides a pathway to 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Indonesia on Sunday beat Jordan 4-1 at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to reach the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Indonesia has now secured second spot in Group A behind already-qualified hosts Qatar, who drew 0-0 against Australia on the same day at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Indonesia led 2-0 at half time thanks to Marcelino Ferdinan’s penalty on 23 minutes and Witan Sulaeman’s strike five minutes before the break.

Ferdinan made it 3-0 after 70 minutes before Jordan’s consolation nine minutes later came via an own goal from Justin Hubner.

Komang Teguh ensured there would be no late drama by making it 4-1 with four minutes of the 90 left.

In Monday’s action, a draw against Iraq will be enough for Saudi Arabia to secure top spot in Group C, while Thailand and Tajikistan meet at Al-Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia lead the group with a maximum of six points while Thailand are second with three points on goal difference from Iraq. All three can still qualify for the quarterfinals while bottom-of-the-table Tajikistan, with no points, have already been eliminated.

Monday will also see the conclusion of Group B. South Korea meet Japan, with both having already ensured progress; and the UAE and China clash in a dead rubber having amassed no points between them so far.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. For the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will compete for third place, with the winner also booking a place in Paris. The fourth-place finisher has a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
Updated 22 April 2024
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Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
  • Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals
  • Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest

LONDON: Liverpool got back on track after a miserable week as a 3-1 win at Fulham kept their Premier League title bid alive, while Nottingham Forest launched an astonishing rant at the officiating in their 2-0 defeat against Everton on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side crashed out of the Europa League quarterfinals against Atalanta on Thursday after suffering a damaging Premier League defeat at home to Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Reds’ hopes of giving Klopp a glorious farewell were dwindling but they climbed back into the title race with a much-needed first win in three league games.

Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals.

Next for Liverpool is the Merseyside derby at Everton on Wednesday, while Arsenal host Chelsea on Tuesday and City travel to Brighton on Thursday.

“Fulham usually cause us more problems so it was a good performance at the right moment,” Klopp said.

“We want to stay in that race, that’s clear. Arsenal won yesterday, Manchester City will win their game in hand, so we have to win games and that’s what we’ll try.”

Klopp responded to signs of fatigue from his team in recent weeks by dropping Mohamed Salah to the bench among five changes.

And Liverpool took the hint with a more cohesive display by the banks of the River Thames in west London.

Trent Alexander-Arnold put Liverpool ahead in the 32nd minute with a superb free-kick that flashed into the top corner.

Fulham defender Timothy Castagne levelled from close-range after Liverpool failed to clear in first half stoppage-time.

Ryan Gravenberch restored Liverpool’s advantage in the 53rd minute with a swerving blast from the edge of the area for his first Premier League goal.

Diogo Jota wrapped up the points in the 72nd minute, drilling a clinical low finish into the far corner.

Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored the goals that took the Toffees five points clear of the relegation zone.

Forest remain just one point above the bottom three and were left dismayed at being denied three strong penalty appeals.

The club’s official account on social media platform X called into question the Premier League’s integrity by claiming the VAR official is a fan of relegation rivals Luton.

“We warned the PGMOL (referees’ governing body) that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” Forest said in a statement said.

“Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

Aston Villa tightened their grip on Champions League football next season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth.

Villa shrugged off the exertions of having to go to extra-time and penalties in midweek to book their place in the Europa Conference League semifinals against Lille.

Unai Emery’s men even had to come from behind after Dominic Solanke opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

Morgan Rogers’ fine finish just before half-time proved to be the turning point.

Moussa Diaby slotted in from Ollie Watkins’ pass to put Villa in front.

Watkins was the provider once more for Leon Bailey to tap in to seal the points 12 minutes from time.

Victory takes Villa six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.

Spurs have two games in hand but still have to play all of title challengers Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in their final six matches.

David Moyes’ future as West Ham manager looks more uncertain after they were thrashed 5-2 at Crystal Palace.

Michael Olize headed in the opener before Eberechi Eze’s spectacular acrobatic effort found the roof of the net.

Emerson Palmieri’s own goal made it 3-0 before Jean-Philippe Mateta struck twice for Palace either side of half-time.

Michail Antonio’s strike and a Tyrick Mitchell own goal was scant consolation for West Ham.


Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
Updated 22 April 2024
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Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
  • Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September
  • Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league

MADRID: Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league title after beating Barcelona 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal by Jude Bellingham in the final “clasico” of the season on Sunday.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but Madrid came back to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over their second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-footed strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vazquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team’s only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champions, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive their title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinicius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín Lopez’s goal from close range in the 69th. Vazquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vazquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for themselves after a challenge on López in the second half. They also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

It was likely the last clasico for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who earlier this season said he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art video screens at the renovated Bernabeu.

ATLETICO STRUGGLE

Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad were held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.