Dutch forward Robin van Persie reacts du

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.

La Liga: Ronaldo scores twice, Neville gets 1st win as a manager

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athtletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to lead Real Madrid to a 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, provisionally lifting it into second place in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the third minute before Javier Eraso quickly leveled for the Basques in a back-and-forth first half at the Santiago Bernabeu that finished with James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos giving Madrid a 3-1 lead at halftime.

https://twitter.com/beINSPORTSUSA/status/698523289841328130

Madrid defender Raphael Varane, whose error led to Eraso’s goal, was sent off in the 83rd after earning identical bookings for twice thrusting his forearm into Aritz Aduriz’s head while contesting a high ball.

Despite being a man down, Ronaldo found the net again in the 87th to move past Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as the competition’s leading scorer with 21 goals this season.

https://twitter.com/beINSPORTSUSA/status/698548716198703104

Gorka Elustondo headed in Bilbao’s second goal in the 90th.

Madrid’s fourth win in as many home matches under coach Zinedine Zidane – by a combined score of 20-3 – lifted it two points ahead of Atletico Madrid before it visits Getafe on Sunday.

Leader Barcelona is one point ahead of Madrid with two matches to play: against Celta on Sunday and at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Zidane will make his European coaching debut on Wednesday when Madrid visits Roma in the Champions League’s round of 16.

Ronaldo’s goals were his 31st and 32nd in 30 games across all competitions this campaign, a season in which he has been criticized by some for failing to score against important rivals.

“About Cristiano, what can I say?” Zidane said before employing an expletive in Spanish to describe how good he considers the forward’s form.

“We are ready for the match against Roma. We are in shape, playing well, and very pleased with how we played today against a very good rival. We are prepared for Wednesday.”

Also Saturday, Villarreal strengthened its hold on fourth place and the last Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at home over Malaga thanks to striker Roberto Soldado‘s 18th-minute goal.

Ronaldo gave Madrid a brilliant start when he received a pass from Karim Benzema, used a deft dribble to wrong-foot Xabier Etxeita and fired a right-footed strike just under the crossbar.

But Bilbao was undaunted and quickly leveled in the 10th when Eraso pounced on Varane’s poor backpass that goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well to stop from becoming an own goal but left for Eraso to finish off.

Aduriz went close twice to putting the visitors ahead with a header saved by Navas before the striker hit the bar.

Rodriguez turned the flow back in Madrid’s favor with an excellent strike with his left foot from outside the area that curled around outstretched goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 37th.

Kroos put Madrid in full control heading into the break when he took a pass from Ronaldo in the area and sent a shot that deflected off a defender past Iraizoz in first-half injury time.

“We leave with the feeling that we had a good first half. Maybe we missed a great opportunity today,” said Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, impressed by Madrid’s “extraordinary firepower.”

Ronaldo hit the upright before finally getting his second goal from a pass by substitute Lucas Vazquez.

Valencia hosts Espanyol later, while Real Betis visits Deportivo La Coruna.

Juventus win 15th straight to take Serie A lead from Napoli

Juventus' Simone Zaza, second from right, celebrates with is teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
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(AP) — Substitute Simone Zaza scored two minutes from time and Juventus beat visiting Napoli 1-0 on Saturday to take the Serie A lead from the southern club.

[ MORE: Napoli fans support racially abused Koulibaly ]

Seeking its fifth consecutive title, Juventus moved one point ahead of Napoli with 13 rounds remaining in the Italian league.

Near the end of a match in Turin that had been characterized by few chances for either side, Zaza’s goal came with a long, curving shot that deflected slightly off defender Raul Albiol.

https://twitter.com/beINSPORTSUSA/status/698622502587621376

[ MORE: Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” ]

It was Juventus’ 15th straight win, moving the Bianconeri within two victories of the Serie A record established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Earlier, Daniel Ciofani scored twice as promoted Frosinone beat Empoli 2-1 for its first away win in the top division. Also, Chievo Verona and Sassuolo drew 1-1.

Bundesliga wrap: Leverkusen win without Chicharito, drop Hertha to 4th

Leverkusen's Omer Toprak, right, celebrates his side's equalizing goal during a German Bundesliga soccer match between SV Darmstadt 98 and Bayer Leverkusen in Darmstadt, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Germany’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Bundesliga coverage ]

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover

Bayern Munich’s lead has been cut to five points (for the time being – they play on Sunday) after Borussia Dortmund (48 points) returned to winning ways via Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s game-winning goal in the 57th minute (below video).

Darmstadt 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen

No Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, no problem for Bayer Leverkusen, who went third in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 away victory over 12th-place Darmstadt. After going down a goal in the 28th minute, the game swung on a pair of goals 15 minutes apart just after the hour mark. Aytac Sulu put the ball into his own net for Leverkusen’s equalizer on 62 minutes, and Julian Brandt scored the winner in the 77th minute. Now on 35 points with a +9 goal differential, Leverkusen have leapfrogged Hertha Berlin for the third and final automatic qualification spot into the UEFA Champions League.

Stuttgart 2-0 Hertha Berlin

Hertha are now four league games without a win (three draws) after falling 2-0 away to Stuttgart. Serey Die and Filip Kostic were the goalscorers on Saturday, as U.S. national team defender John Brooks completed his 12th straight 90-minute shift (all competitions). With 35 points and a +6 goal differential, Hertha now sit just two points ahead of Schalke and Mainz in the race for the Bundesliga’s fourth and final Champions League place.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Wolfsburg 2-0 Ingolstadt
Werder Bremen 1-1 Hoffenheim
Koln 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (9:30 a.m. ET)
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich (11:30 a.m. ET)

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 20 17 2 1 50 9 41 10-0-0 7-2-1 53
Borussia Dortmund 21 15 3 3 53 24 29 9-1-0 6-2-3 48
Bayer Leverkusen 21 10 5 6 31 22 9 5-3-2 5-2-4 35
Hertha BSC Berlin 21 10 5 6 29 23 6 6-3-1 4-2-5 35
FC Schalke 04 21 10 3 8 30 28 2 6-2-3 4-1-5 33
FSV Mainz 05 21 10 3 8 27 25 2 6-1-4 4-2-4 33
Mönchengladbach 20 10 2 8 40 35 5 7-1-3 3-1-5 32
VfL Wolfsburg 21 8 6 7 31 28 3 7-3-1 1-3-6 30
1. FC Köln 21 7 8 6 24 27 -3 4-4-3 3-4-3 29
VfB Stuttgart 21 8 3 10 33 41 -8 5-1-5 3-2-5 27
FC Ingolstadt 04 21 7 5 9 14 23 -9 4-2-4 3-3-5 26
Darmstadt 21 6 6 9 22 31 -9 1-4-6 5-2-3 24
Hamburger SV 20 6 5 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 4-2-4 23
FC Augsburg 20 5 6 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 3-3-4 21
Eintracht Frankfurt 21 5 6 10 27 37 -10 3-3-4 2-3-6 21
Werder Bremen 21 5 5 11 25 42 -17 1-3-6 4-2-5 20
1899 Hoffenheim 21 2 9 10 19 31 -12 1-5-4 1-4-6 15
Hannover 96 21 4 2 15 19 36 -17 2-0-8 2-2-7 14

USWNT tops Mexico, advances to Olympic qualifying semis on late Lloyd PK

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The U.S. women’s national team is one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in after the Lady Yanks, on the back of Carli Lloyd’s 79th minute, knocked off their North American rivals, Mexico, in a narrow, physical affair at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

With only bottom-of-the-group Puerto Rico (0 points, -15 goal differential through two games) still to face, the USWNT are through to the semifinal round, at which point they’ll be one more win away from qualifying for this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

The first half of Saturday’s clash was much different from what either side saw in their opening game — USWNT beat Costa Rica, 5-0, while Mexico routed Puerto Rick, 6-0 — as both sides engaged in a rough-and-tumble affair, racked up plenty of fouls and failed to create much of anything in terms of quality scoring chances.

The USWNT’s best chance early in the second half came in the 53rd minute, when Christen Press rifled a right-footed effort toward the far post from 15 yards out, but found nothing but woodwork before the ball caromed back into the field of play.

[ MORE: USWNT routs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying opener ]

Alex Morgan very nearly opened the scoring in the 67th minute. Becky Sauerbrunn’s long throw was flicked on by Lindsey Horan’s header inside the penalty area, and eventually made its way to Morgan near the top of the six-yard box, from where her volleyed effort was sent inches over the crossbar.

With 77 minutes on the clock, Horan followed suit with a shot of her own off the post. From 20 yards out, her right-footed effort had beaten the goalkeeper, only to hit the same far post and bounce across the face of goal, where not a single American player was waiting to tap home the rebound.

All of Mexico’s dogged defensive work was undone in the 79th minute, though, as the USWNT was awarded a controversial penalty for handball. Lloyd’s initial effort from the penalty spot was saved, but the reigning World Player of the Year was first to the rebound and slotted the ball into an empty net (below video).