As it happened, Euro 2012: Germany begins title quest; Netherlands rocked

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If you were with us yesterday, you know how this works. It’s not quite a minute-by-minute, but it is a place that will keep you up-to-date on everything that’s happening in today’s Euro 2012 action.

That action kicks off at noon Eastern with the Netherlands taking on Denmark in Kharkiv, Ukraine. At 2:45 p.m. Eastern, tournament favorites (or co-favorites, I don’t want to upset anybody) Germany face Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Portugal.

The group (Group B) is being billed as the Group of Death, but between today’s games and tomorrow’s Group C match ups, we’ll just call it a pretty spectacular first weekend of the tournament.

And we’ll be here throughout. Refresh this page to get the latest updates, and in the interim, here’s some linkage:

As the day goes on, we’ll have post-match thoughts and our big Saturday review, but for now, we’ve got some soccer to blog:


(All times Eastern)

1640: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Final, and Germany gets their victory. The match could have gone either way, as Pepe’s late first half chance showed. Ultimately, Germany’s reliance on crossing (particularly from the right) in the second paid off.

1637: Germany 1-0: Portugal: Another very good chance for Portugal. Ronaldo is through on the left and pulls one back for Nani from 12 yards out. He shoots but has it blocked by Holger Badstuder and goes out for a corner.

Lars Bender is on for Thomas Muller.

1632: Germany 1-0 Portugal: This game should be tied, and it’s not. A long ball is held up by Nelson Oliveira, who has to take it to the line. He cuts it back for Nani whose ridden off the ball, leaving an open chance at the right post for Silvestre Varela. He can’t lift it over Manuel Neuer, who claims the shot, preserving the lead.

1630: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Germany spent so much of this match in possession and now can’t get the ball back. Portugal’s applying more pressure than Germany has at any point of this match, and although there haven’t been any clear cut chances, there have been a lot of near-chances. One of these could come good.

Mesut Ozil is off. Decent day that people are drooling over – that’s how that works. Toni Kroos is on. He’ll have a decent spell that people will drool over.

1627: Germany 1-0 Portugal: The Portuguese are coming back. Attack built down the left is cut back for the oncoming Fabio Coentrao, whose blast takes a “cheeky” deflection before going over the bar. Minutes later a cross from Nani finds the woodwork, albeit the top of the bar.

1625: Germany 1-0 Portugal: The game’s opened up. Shocking, huh? Portugal’s midfield has to play like midfielders and we get a real soccer game? Who would have thought? We’re even seeing Miguel Veloso, who’s spent most of the game sitting right in front of the defense, venture toward Germany’s area. This is crazy.

1623: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Gómez is now coming off for Klose. Klose was originally slated to come off earlier, but then the goal happened. He hasn’t ben that bad. When we last saw Gómez, he was ruining Bayern’s chance at Champions League glory. Today he’s done well to get on the end of the crosses he’s gotten, obviously converting what started to be the winning goal.

1616: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Breakthrough, and it’s exactly how they wanted it. Germany had abandoned building through the middle an decided if they were going to win, it was going to have to come from wide. And that it did, with a ball from the right finding Mario Gomez in the middle. The Bayern man hammered it down and to the near post, beating Patricio. Germany has their lead.

1613: Germany 0-0 Portugal: Two pluses for a Germany team looking less and less likely to get their three points: Ozil has done a decent job or orchestrating things, while Thomas Muller’s crossing from the right has been very good. Here he puts a dangerous ball into the six from the sideline. Patricio swallows it up, but a near post runner could have done something with that.

1608: Germany 0-0 Portugal: That was a close one for Germany. Joao Moutinho, with a head of stream entering the final third, finds Ronaldo coming from from the left. From 16 yards out, Ronaldo winds up, but just as he looks to let go Jerome Boateng gets back to put a foot, blocking the shot. Regardless. it was the first time Portugal has been able to generate something that didn’t involve playing long, wide, then in.

1602 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: We’ll see if this continues, but it seems Germany may be resigned to playing the ball down the flanks, avoiding that trio in Portugal’s midfield. Over the last couple of minutes, it’s been stay wide, pump it in, with Mari Gomez putting one header over the bar. We’ll see if this continues.

1600 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Just as Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Robin van Persie did before him, Lukasz Podolski seems to be volunteering to be this match’s misfiring attacker. He’s had two or three chances which, while not great, have made him look back. Here, he has a ball played to him in the left side of the area, which he promptly puts out for a goal kick.

1557 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Perhaps this half will settle in at some point, but it looks like the game may be a little more open over this final 45. Portugal is more readily coming out of their own half (downplaying the notion they’re playing for a draw). Germany has been able to threaten a couple of times, too, with the team causing Portugal trouble once they get Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira moving.

1554 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Twice we’ve seen a little more of what Paulo Bento wants Portugal to do. They’re hitting the ball long and wide and allowing those all-world wings to go get it. Opening the half, it was Nani with a chance to do work. This time it’s Ronaldo who forced another corner kick.

1549 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: We are back. No changes that I’ve heard of.

1534 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Halftime. Stats. Possession: Germany 61-39. Shots: Germany 6-3. Shorts on target: 3-1. All numbers courtesy of UEFA.

1532 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Halftime. Portugal was impenetrable at the back and generated the best chances. It’s a very Portugal performance, and while some are saying they’re set up for a draw – well, they always set up this way, which is why so many of their recent matches have ended 0-0. Are we destined for another?

1531 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Controversy? A corner by Portugal sees Pepe put the ball of the underside of the bar. The ball goes down and nails the line, drawing some appeals for goal from Portugal. Replays showed the ball wasn’t in … so whew?

1526 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany causes some excitement with their latest threat but can’t get the ball on goal. Muller plays a ball in that comes back across for him at the right post. He shot does wide of the far post, though Portugal looked a little bit lost as Germany knocked it around. Also of note: All of Germany’s buzz-worthy moments have come from right-center out. Two opportunities for Podolski were from passes from the right. A cross to Gomez in the first minutes produced a shot, while this latest flurry came from wide right.

1521 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: It’s more of the same. Germany has the ball but they’re not doing anything with it. This isn’t quite the case of the complacent Dutch that was saw in the first game. Portugal’s midfield three is sitting deep (Miguel Veloso’s scarcely five years in front of Pepe and Bruno Alves). They’re maintaining their shape as Germany tries the left and the right. Now, you see the midfield fo Schweinsteiger and Khedira slowly creeping forward, but there don’t seem to be a lot of options for Germany.

1514 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany remains in control, not that they’re coming close to scoring. Portugal’s midfield three has managed Germany’s movement well. Patricio’s gone relatively unbothered in goal, and for all their possession, Germany has yet to fin something that works in the final third.

1503 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Fist real chance for Portugal. A ball played down the left for Ronaldo allows him to size up Jerome Boateng. A series of step overs free the right back and allow Ronaldo to go left and put a ball across the six. Nobody can get on to it, but it forces a corner, where Bruno Alves can get onto a ball played to the middle of the box.

1458 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany doesn’t want to pass to Mats Hummels anymore. Holder Badstuder, in possession near the center circle, looked at his central defense partner and then though better of giving him the ball. He played it to Philipp Lahm instead, but the captain was more magnanimous. Unfortunately, Hummels was slow to the ball, allowed Helder Postiga to close him down, and them played a poorly weighted ball back to Manuel Neuer. The Germany `keeper cleared it but only under heavy pressure from Postiga. For his trouble, Postiga got carded, sliding into Neuer.

1455 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: The first glimpse of one of Germany’s most effective tactics, though it yielded only a week chance. Thomas Müller, hugging the line on the right, plays a ball across the top of the area to Lukas Podolski. Coming in from the left, the new Arsenal man doesn’t hit it right, seemingly catching it with the outside of his laces. Patricio with an easy save.

1454 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: A couple of fouls (Gomez, Muller) and a bit of a tussle between Postiga and Hummels and this game’s starting to see some life.

1449 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Still too early to say much except Germany’s first minute was impressive. The atmosphere in this match, however, seems world’s better than the nap-inducing opener.

1446 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: The last match of the day has kicked off. Portugal going from right to left.

1442 – And, here are the teams:

Portugal: Patrício, Alves, Pepe, Coentrão, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Custódio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela.

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Podolski, Gomez SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Gündoğan, Schürrle, Bender, Kroos, Götze, Reus, Klose.

Hummels does start in central defense over Mertesacker, deemed not quite ready (or good enough) to start. The rest is as expected for Germany, including Gomez starting over Klose.

1441 – The anthems are being played, and Germany-Portugal is about to start. Here’s our report from the last game.

1351 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Final. Before I got punch out an Offshore Drilling, some numbers: Possession: Netherlands 53-47. Shots: Netherlands 28-8. Shots on target: 8-8.

1351 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Final, and the Netherlands are in trouble. They may now need to win out to get out of group, and off the back of losing to Russia in 2008’s quarterfinal, they’ve not been upset in their last two Euro matches.

1350 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Review of the play showed Lars Jacobsen clearly handled the ball, but the best part was Klass-Jan Huntelaar’s Michael Ballack impression, sprinting toward the official with veins popping out of his neck.

Robin van Persie just blew another good chance.

1347 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Dutch have anther handball shout in the penalty box, their second or third of the match. Whether it was a handball or not, it’s almost not the point. The Netherlands have again just stopped playing to appeal to the official. Rather than attack a ball that’s only nine yards from goal, they’re hoping to be bailed out.

1342 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Dirk Kuyt, the Netherlands’ final sub, comes on for Gregory van der Wiel, who had  sub-par game. The Netherlands haven’t mounted a meaningful attack in some time. Either they’re saving for one last push or are over it. Regardless, if there’s one man who can spur them on, it’s Kuyt.

1333 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: An amazing pass by Sneijder puts Huntelaar in. With the outside of his right foot (from the left), Sneijder puts Huntelaar behind the defense from 40 yards out. Huntelaar doesn’t get the ball away quickly enough and sees his shot saved by Andersen. Van Persie is there to kept collect the rebound, but the two’s hacking at Andersen bring a whistle.

It was the Netherlands’ best chance of the night, but it’s starting to look like that’s the kind of night it’s going to be.

1331 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: With the changes, the Netherlands are playing with Huntelaar as a No. 9, van Persie as a ten. Van der Vaart is in central midfield, and Welsey Sneijder’s playing to the left of center. Arjen Robben’s high on the right, with van Bommel holding.

Christian Eriksen’s off. Schøne’s on.

1328 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Van Marwijk desperately needs to get new blood on the field. The Dutch, having not scored through that early first half push that saw them put 102 shots on goal, look discouraged. Now, in the 71st minute, the subs come on. Van der Vaart is on for de Jong, and Huntelaar is on for … Afellay? I guess it has to be that way, but he’s been good, today. But who else would you take off? A defender? You can’t right now, especially with Denmark pushing a little in the last few minutes.

1326 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Part of the problem for the Dutch has been evident during Denmark’s last spell of possession. There is either a lack of intensity or lack of confidence in their defenders, so nobody’s challenging the Danish attackers, trying to get the ball off their feet. It would be nice of they picked it out a little. As is, the Danes are able to not only eat up some time but also create the odd chance, here forcing a corner.

1324 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: At what point does Bert van Marwijk start making changes? We’re already in the 67th minute, and the Dutch are still playing with both van Bommel and de Jong.

And as I type, ven der Vaart and Huntelaar hand in cards.

1320 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: A foul is given by Lacobsen on the charging Willems, giving Wesley Sneijder a chance to serve a ball in from the left flank, 35 yards out. His inswinger is perfectly placed at the far post, about 8-9 yards out, where John Heitenga has beaten his man. The offside flag it up, though, but Denmark needs to bea  bit worried. That’s twice this half that Heitenga has been able to get up and above the rest of the Danish defense.

And as I type, a cross for Arjen Robben sees the right winger head a ball wide from about eight yards out.

1318 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Sneijder with another good ball for Sneijder in that channel between Kjaer and Jacobsen. The Dutch seem intent on attacking there, although Kjaer does well this time, considering Jacobsen was a little up the field when Sneijder played his ball. Corner kick sees Andersen strong coming off his line to claim it.

1316 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart are warming up … I don’t think funny is the right word, but I’m giggling. Lightly.

1312 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The urgency the Dutch have shown in attack hasn’t translated to the defense. An attack that starts with a long ball down the right (retrieved by Eriksen) moves left, where Simon Paulsen takes on Arjen Robben then Gregory Van der Wiel. He gets to the line, cuts a ball back, and the pass is left to die nine yards from goal even with the far post. Two players sprint for it, and Afellay clears it out for a corner.

1308 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Dutch seem to realize the task at hand and have already generated three good chances. One, however, begs the question: What’s wrong with Robin van Persie? A 30-yard great ball along the ground from Sneijder finds van Persie running through the left channel. Squaring up to goal he takes a horrible touch that ruins his scoring chance.

Since, the Dutch have generated another chance for van Persie, a shot by van Bommel, two opportunities for Afellay … and it looks like the Danes are in for a long 45 minutes.

1304 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: We’re back with no chances. The Dutch have 45 minutes for get their goals. Remember: They still have to face Germany. Obviously, Denmark does, too, but points lost here not only make first place difficult, it opens the door for a very capable Danish side.

1249 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Halftime stats … Possession: Netherlands 56-44 Denmark; Shots: Netherlands 13-5 Denmark; Shots on goal: Netherlands 3-5 Denmark.

All number courtesy UEFA.

1248 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Halftime, and although the Dutch seems to control the game, they didn’t play with any urgency until after the goal. Even then, they didn’t generate the number of chances they’re used to. But make no mistake about it: the Netherlands have had most of the chances, haven’t converted, and the Danes executed when it counted.

1244 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Another good chance for the Dutch, and some bad defending from Denmark. A long ball from John Heitenga sees van Persie win a head down to Sneijder at the edge of the box. Van Persie peals off toward the right, and nobody follows him. Sneijder finds him, giving RvP an open chance, but he doesn’t get it out of his feet fast enough to prevent Andersen from closing down the angles.

1243 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Danes are coming into the match (beyond the scoreboard). For the first time since very early, the possession number has dipped below 60 percent for the Dutch. After a long spell of possession that saw Christian Eriksen and Michael Krohn-Dehli keep the Dutch defenders on their heels, Stekelenburg’s forces into a diving save.

1240 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Ibrahim Afellay is one of three Dutch starters who weren’t part of the main XI in South Africa. He’s displaced Dirk Kuyt, and just now, he showed why. Coming in from the left, Afellay takes advantage of a lunging challenge from Daniel Agger, letting a shot go from just outside the box. If floats over the bar, but Afellay did well to wait for and take advantage of a bad choice from Denmark’s captain.

1237 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Stephen Andersen nearly gave away Denmark’s lead. Trying to get the ball into midfield, the Danish goalkeeper didn’t see Arjen Robben. Going in on goal with only one defender to beat, Robben moves onto his left foot from 16 yards out an nails the left post.

1226 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Danes’ first meaningful chance has put them ahead. Left back Simon Poulsen is allowed the carry the ball from 40 yards out to deep along the left flank, drawing defenders. A deflected cross finds left wing Michael Krohn-Dehli just outside the box. He collects, attacks, make one move to the outside, and is in on goal. Marteen Stekelenburg comes out be sees the shot go through his legs for the opening goal.

1224 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: With Denmark playing so conservatively in defense, we’re seeing some of the Dutch defenders become a little more adventurous when the team’s in possession. John Heitenga was just seem lingering in midfield, providing support when Mark van Bommel went wide. In the same sequence, Gregory van der Wiel felt comfortable enough to move into the middle from his right back position.

1219 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: To this point, this game has been pretty dull, but the Dutch seem willing to start taking some chances. Along the right Robben is in possession. Van Persie comes over and back (35 yards out) and take a ball to feet. Robben goes on a run and comes onto a ball flicked behind the defense. Going in alone on Andersen, Robben slows up and tries to play a ball across to Sneijder. Kjaer comes back and slides onto a ball that ends in Andersen’s arms. Wasted chance.

1217 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Robben gets his first chance to come in from the right onto his left foot. From 23 yards, he forces a driving stop from Stephan Andersen.

1212 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: That was nice, if ultimately not that dangerous. Van Persie’s about 26 yards out and curls a ball from the right toward the far post. Wesley Sneijder is making a run from midfield and barley beats Simon Kjaer but can only chest it back across the face of goal. Van Persie can’t quite get there in time.

1208 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Early, van Marwijk’s switched Arjen Robben (normally RW) with Ibrahim Afellay. Going down the left, Robben creates a chance for Robin van Persie, cutting it back toward the sot. The ball seemed slightly behind RvP, who definitely didn’t have space to run onto the shot. He pushes his first chance wide of the near post.

1207 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: It’s a pretty tame start. The Dutch are hogging the ball, and the Danes aren’t too intent on making them share. A couple of flashes of brillance from the Oranje but nothing worth writing about. The atmosphere’s uninspiring.

1202 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Nigel de Jong went 48 seconds before committing a foul. New man.

1201 – “[Player] said to interest Manchester United.”

Drink.

And … we’re off.

1159 – Captains Mark van Bommel and Daniel Agger excahnge handshakes and banners. Agger survives.

1155 – Teams are coming out on the field in Kharkiv, which looks nowhere near ready to replicate the atmosphere we saw yesterday in Poland.

1146 – Another update via UEFA as we’re about 15 minutes away from kick off in Kharkiv:

David Crossan, Metalist Stadium: My Ukrainian colleague Viktor tells me one of the reasons orange is so prominent here is because the Dutch are playing all three group games in the city and as such the locals have decided to get behind them.

1129 – Here are the teams for the noon game, Netherlands-Denmark, via UEFA:

Denmark: Andersen, Kjær, Agger, S Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Zimling, Krohn-Dehli, Rommedahl, Bendtner SUBS: Lindegaard, Schmeichel, Bjelland, Okore, Wass, C Poulsen, Schøne, Silberbauer, J Poulsen, Kahlenberg, Pedersen, Mikkelsen.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, Van Bommel, N De Jong, Robben, Sneijder, Afellay, Van Persie SUBS: Vorm, Krul, Mathijsen, Bouma, Boulahrouz, Schaars, Strootman, Van der Vaart, Kuyt, Huntelaar, L De Jong, Narsingh.

One note on the Netherland’s starting left back:

David Crossan, Metalist Stadium: So left-back Jetro Willems becomes the youngest ever EURO player at 18, beating Enzo Scifo’s record from 28 years ago.

1116 – Good morning. I’ll admit: I’m going to have to get used to this routine. It’s still kinda early here in Pacific time. At least, it’s early for me.

Lineups are coming in a few minutes. Picks? Though part of me wants to think the Dutch will drop points, I’d put my money on both the Netherlands and Germany getting full points today.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Ligue 1: PSG return to comfort zone, thrash Strasbourg

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PARIS (AP) After falling short in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain returned to its French league comfort zone and beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday.

Edinson Cavani netted twice, and Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Neymar also scored to ensure PSG stayed 12 points clear of second-place Monaco at the top.

But not without a fright.

Strasbourg took the lead in the sixth minute and pulled back to 3-2 as PSG continued to show alarming signs of weakness at the back. Strasbourg had a late goal incorrectly ruled out for offside after PSG’s defense was again easily breached, although it was already 5-2 by then.

PSG lost at Real Madrid 3-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16. The way PSG capitulated by giving away two late goals heaped pressure on coach Unai Emery over his team selection.

“The atmosphere was a bit tense. That’s normal,” Cavani said. “We have to look forward now. We played well today, although at times we could have been better.”

Emery was booed by sections of the home crowd when his name was announced over the loudspeaker before the game. Later, Cavani stopped short of giving Emery his personal backing when asked if the under-fire coach has the full support of the players.

“We’re a team and big teams stick together in the important moments,” Cavani said. “That’s the only way you can win.”

Strasbourg beat PSG at home in December, and stunned the crowd at Parc des Princes by taking the lead when midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou was left completely unmarked near the penalty spot.

PSG hit back hard and was 3-1 up after 23 minutes thanks to Draxler, Di Maria and Neymar’s 19th in 19 league games.

Stephane Bahoken scored against PSG for the second time this season after a quick counterattack. Strasbourg poured forward but the hope didn’t last for long.

Cavani gave PSG some breathing space with an assured finish in the 72nd, clipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja, then lobbed him for his league-leading 23rd goal.

“It was important to win after Wednesday’s match. We have to get our fans ready for the games to come against Marseille (next weekend) and Real Madrid,” Emery said. “We have to show we can maintain this level of play against better sides, with all due respect to Strasbourg.”

To celebrate Chinese New Year, PSG players’ names were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts and a Chinese dragon paraded around the pitch. PSG says it has 1.3 million Chinese followers.

In order to better serve the soccer market in Asia, the league match between Nice and PSG on March 18 has been moved forward to 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).


Marseille players will also have their names in Mandarin for Sunday’s home game against Bordeaux at Stade Velodrome. Marseille recently launched an account on Chinese social media site Weibo.

Striker Giovanni Sio’s second-half equalizer gave Montpellier the point it needed to take fifth place after drawing with Guingamp 1-1.

Two goals from newly signed striker Diafra Sakho gave Rennes a 2-2 draw at Caen, which missed two penalties.

Saint-Etienne won at Angers 1-0, Troyes beat last-place Metz 1-0, and Amiens drew with Toulouse 0-0 in another relegation scrap.

In Sunday’s other games, fourth-place Lyon goes to Lille, and Nice hosts Nantes.

Pardew “furious” after 4 WBA players steal taxi in Spain

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At least when you’re bottom of the Premier League table and appear headed for relegation, as West Bromwich Albion now find themselves, you can take the positive approach that “the only way to go from here is up.”

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Alternatively, four of your most senior players — Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill, in this case — might have other ideas and elect to steal a cab during a late-season training camp in Barcelona. That’s the current state of affairs for the Baggies and manager Alan Pardew, who openly admits he was “furious” and felt “let down” — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is obviously not ideal. They broke the curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel a bit let down by that.”

“It’s difficult for managers. Obviously, I was furious with what happened but at the same time I’ve got to stay faithful to the players and give them a chance to remedy the situation.”

The night’s timeline reads something like this: the quartet wanted to go out in the city center, but everything was closed late at night; they got a taxi to a McDonald’s by the Barcelona port; the driver left the car, at which point the players decided to drive back to the team hotel around 5:30 a.m.; the care was returned to the cab driver around 8 a.m.

Evans was stripped of his captaincy for Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Southampton. The players have since released the following statement through the club’s website:

“We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association. We freely acknowledge and apologize for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion.

“The club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will cooperate fully. In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.”

With 11 games left to play, West Brom currently sit seven points adrift of safety; Pardew’s position grows more and more tenuous with each point dropped; and three of their final 11 games are against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Serie A: Turkish youngster Under fires Roma back into 3rd

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ROME (AP) The rapid development of 20-year-old Turkey winger Cengiz Under is playing a big role in Roma’s revival.

Under scored his fourth goal in three matches and Roma won at Udinese 2-0 for its third straight win in Serie A on Saturday.

Roma moved into third place, two points ahead of Inter Milan, which lost at Genoa 2-0.

It’s a drastic improvement from where Roma was a month ago, when the Giallorossi were mired in a five-match winless streak that risked dropping them out of contention for the Champions League places.

“We’re getting back on track to where we were in the first half of the season,” forward Diego Perotti said.

Roma went ahead when Under unleashed a powerful, rising shot from beyond the area in the 70th.

Perotti sealed the victory in the 90th with an angled effort after Udinese gave the ball away near midfield.

Under is having a breakout month.

First, he scored after 43 seconds when Roma ended a five-match winless streak by beating Hellas Verona 1-0. Then he had a brace and also delivered an assist in a 5-2 win over Benevento last weekend.

All this after not being involved in any goals in his first 14 matches with Roma.

“He plays far more for the team than himself,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said of Under. “His greatest strength is being able to prepare his shot with great speed, making him difficult to close down.”

Added Perotti, “He’s very humble and he doesn’t speak Italian yet but he’s well behaved and is a great kid. He deserves all of this.”

On Wednesday, Roma visits Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

“We’ve got to make the most of the fact they’ve had a winter break and might not be match fit,” Di Francesco said of the Ukrainian side. “They have a lot of quality in attack and are dangerous, but we shouldn’t change our attitude.”


Inter’s defense was in shambles against Genoa.

The hosts took the lead before the break when a failed clearance attempt from Milan Skriniar ricocheted off of a stunned Andrea Ranocchia, who was charged with an own goal.

Then former Inter striker Goran Pandev was left unmarked to score from the center of the area midway through the second half.

Inter hasn’t won at regional rival Genoa in more than seven years.

Chievo Verona took a big step toward avoiding relegation with a 2-1 win over visiting Cagliari.

Emanuele Giaccherini and Roberto Inglese scored late for the hosts before Leonardo Pavoletti pulled one back for Cagliari.

Chievo moved up to 14th, level on points with Cagliari, eight points above the drop zone.

La Liga: Barca’s 31-game unbeaten run ties longest in club history

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Eibar 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona, the last remaining unbeaten side from Europe’s five major domestic leagues, warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Chelsea by dismantling seventh-place Eibar side away from home on Saturday and extending their unbeaten run to 31 games in the league, tying the club’s all-time record in the process.

The Blaugrana took the lead after 15 minutes, when Lionel Messi slotted an inch-perfect through ball for Luis Suarez who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home (WATCH HERE) for his 17th league goal of the season (20 in all competitions).

Messi played his part in Barca’s second goal, which came three minutes before full-time. The Argentine’s shot was initially saved, but Jordi Alba arrived on the scene moments later to clean up and finish off the 10-man Basque minnows.

The victory sends Barca 10 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, who play on Sunday, and 20 points clear of fourth-place Real Madrid, who have played two fewer games thus far.

Malaga 1-2 Valencia

Valencia, who spent the majority of the season’s first half as Barca’s nearest title rivals (while never really challenging), fell to third when they recently lost three straight league games, but have since regained their footing with back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s come-from-behind triumph away to last-place Malaga.

Brown Ideye put Malaga ahead just before the half-hour mark, a lead which remained intact for more than 50 minutes. Alas, Francis Coquelin bagged his first goal for Valencia in the 80th minute to draw level, followed by a penalty kick converted by Dani Parejo five minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 1-2 Sevilla
Alaves 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Sociedad vs. Levante — 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Espanyol vs. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Real Madrid — 2:45 p.m. ET