Man of the match: Vincente Guaita’s save on Cristiano Ronaldo was his match’s standout moment, the Valencia `keeper getting a left palm to a shot headed for his lower-left hand corner. Two other great second half saves (both on Karim Benzema) along with dominance of his six-yard box in the match’s final moments helped Guaita complete the first shutout of Real at the Bernabeu since Victor Valdes kept a clean sheet on Apr.27, 2011.
Packaged for takeaway:
- This wasn’t a matter of a team coming to the Bernabeu and holding on for dear life. While Valencia let Real Madrid dictate play, they had a clear plan. Higher up the pitch, Los Che were going to run until they dropped (with Pablo Hernández and Jeremy Mathieu providing seemingly scripted reinforcements for Pablo Piatti and Sofiane Feghouli near the hour mark). At the back, they were going to stay compact and force Real Madrid to beat them from distance or by cross (in an approach not dissimilar to what Carlo Ancelotti did to Marseille).
- Even though Real Madrid had plenty of chances to win, Valencia’s plan worked. Los Blancos certainly had fewer clear chances than they’re used to generating, with the virtues of Valencia’s approach most evident in the 76th minute. Then, Ángel Di Maria was unable to blast a 22-yard shot through a crowded area, the block coming out to Marcelo roughly 34 yards from goal. It was a play we’ve seen so many times before – the ball sent right back in over a defense caught pushing up – but Real didn’t have the kind of penalty area presence to take advantage of it. While Marcelo’s cross for the back post was poor, Karim Benzema was seen cutting off his run, fading the right of the area.
- And Benzema should have won this match in the 78th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo fed him a perfect ball near the spot, and while Guaita came quickly, most of the goal was there for the taking. Instead, Benzema’s attempted chip went straight to the Guaita, keeping it scoreless.
- By the end of the match, Valencia was creating the better chances. Jeremy Mathieu had an open shot from 18 yards out in the 72nd minute. Aritz Aduriz had another chance minutes later with a header, and in the 85th minute, Iker Casillas had to come off his line to save Real’s point when Jordi Alba was put in behind Alvaro Arbeloa and Pepe. With Roberto Soldado brought on for the last 15 minutes, Valencia had the pieces to craft the upset.
- Whereas Unai Emery looked like he had a precise plan for the match, José Mourinho seemed to be tinkering. He started both Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain together – a rarity. By the end of the match, he had all of Benzema, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Kaká, and Jose Callejon on (along with Xabi Alonso and Marcelo). That kind of kitchen sink approach has worked before, but tonight it contributed to the feeling Real Madrid was as likely to lose as win.
- The draw leaves Real Madrid up four in La Liga, Barcelona sitting second with 75 points. Valencia point leaves them one up on Levante in third, but with first-place Malaga hosting Racing Santander in Monday, Los Che would find themselves in fourth by the time Rayo Vallecano visiting on Wednesday.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.