Poland's forward Robert Lewandowski  (2n

As it happened, Euro 2012: Russia stay top, Czech Republic vaults second


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Euro 2012’s second round of group games kicks off today and will waste no time pushing on team face-to-face with elimination. Coming off their 4-1 loss Friday to Russia, the Czech Republic can book their return flight to Prague if they lose today’s first match to Greece.

That game kicks off at noon Eastern in Warsaw, with what’s likely to be Group A’s most entertaining game following at 2:45 p.m. Then, Russia will be in Warsaw to face co-hosts Poland, match that may or may not be embroiled in security concerns. Staging issues aside, Russia can clinch a quarterfinal spot with a win. If Greece and the Czech Republic draw, Russia can clinch first place.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Monday’s action:

(All times Eastern)

1637 – Poland 1-1 Russia, Final – A spectacular second half goal brings Poland back, earning the co-hosts a point. They’re on two points. Russia stays top of the group with four.

1632 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Into stoppage time, and Arashvin is gassed. He barely wants the ball anymore, and Russia doesn’t seem to know what to do in their attacking phase when Arshavin doesn’t want the ball.

1616 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Interesting, agressive substitution from Poland. Adrian Mierzejewski is on. Dudka is off. Mierzejewski will play on the right. Obraniak will play behind Lewandowski. Kuba’s on the left. Polanski and Murkawski are the midfield.

1613 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Vyacheslav Malafeev’s called into action again as Poland works through the right channel before cutting back for Polanski, who thumps a sharp angle shot on goal.

Both sides might have a goal in them. The game’s reasonably open.

Roman Pavlyuchenko’s come on for Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

1600 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Poland on a counter gets Ludomir Obraniak on the same side as Jacob Blaszczykowski. It’s too much for Yuri Zkirkov to handle, as he loses Kuba on a run cutting toward the box. Obraniak with a perfect ball allows Blasczzykowski to touch the ball back toward the middle as Sergei Ignashevich passes by. Ten yards later, Kuba let go of a shot into the left of net, evening the game at one.

1552 – Poland 0-1 Russia – Russia’s got to get better on set pieces or else John Heitenga will get on the scoresheet in the quarterfinal. Three time this half, Poland players have had relatively uncontested headers.

1548 – Poland 0-1 Russia – We are back. Doesn’t look like there were any changes. We’ll see when and if Poland turns it on.

1534 – Poland 0-1 Russia, Halftime – And that’s halftime, and what a half by the Russians. Poland came out and looked the better side, but Russia waited them out and found the opener. Along the way, they’ve started neutralizing Robert Lewandowski, making it near-impossible for Poland to get out of their own half.

After the tournament moved on from its opening day, I started thinking Russia’s Friday performance was a bit aberrational. Against an opponent that’s performing much better than the Czech Republic did last week, Russia’s reaffirming they’re the real deal.

1524 – Poland 0-1 Russia – After 30 strong minutes from Poland, Russia has not only withstood the assault, they find themselves in the lead.

Andrei Arshavin, restarting from the right, 23 yards out, whips in an unbelievable ball that finds Alan Dzagoev, who is up to three goals in the tournament. Quick notes on the goal: Yuri Zhirkov’s effort to keep the ball in attack drew the foul on Marcin Wasilewski as the Russia left back bolted forward; Poland looked to be zonal marking and saw one channel flooded (and Arshavin found the channel that it looked like Lukasz Pisczcek was guarding); very impressive for the Russians to hold out, take control, and score. Poland were so strong at the opening whistle.

1519 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland’s defensive shape is 4-1-4-1 with forward Robert Lewandowski coming very deep to help congest the midfield. The room we saw Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov have against the Czech Republic just isn’t there. When they can get the ball to Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin, there is a little room to create without the second holding midfielder. But Poland seems to have made a good call by getting a second central midfielder to the level where Shirokov and Zyryanov should be getting the ball.

Russia is dominating possession right now, but there’s doing nothing with it. After 5-6 touches they usually play an over-weighted through ball (Poland’s line forcing it to be hit hard) or put a cross out.

1506 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Russia has held much of the possession over the last 10 minutes, but some nice coordination from Poland’s defense has allowed a number of Russia’ through balls to roll on to Przemyslaw Tytón. Russia has been able to get into attack down their right, when Alan Dzagoev is dragging Boesnich in, providing room for Aleksandr Anyukov.

Going the other way, Poland had a beautiful, five-pass movement that led to a corner kick and also showed Russia another way they are going to be dangerous.

1454 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland with the first good chances of the match. Ludomir Obraniak’s restart from the right flank is perfect, dropping it right outside the six yard box, where Sebastian Boesnich nails a header down toward the goal line. A great save my Vyacheslav Malafeev keeps the game scoreless. Second later, a Poland corner finds Boesnich again, his latest try forcing a leaping grab.

Russia was poor in the air versus the Czech Republic, but Michal Bilek wouldn’t bring on anybody to take advantage of it. Here, Poland’s showing they can, and with the advantages they have down their right, this could be match-deciding edge.

Poland has started very strong.

1446 – Poland 0-0 Russia – And we are off.

1435 – Here are the lineups:

Russia: Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak.

It’s an unchanged team from Russia.

Poland: Tytoń, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Dudka, Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski SUBS: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kamiński, Wawrzyniak, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Sobiech, Brożek.

One change for Poland. Darius Dudka is coming in for Maciej Rybus. It looks like that will move Rafal Murawski up a level, push Ludomir Obraniak left, with Dudka playing beside Eugen Polanski deep in midfield.

1433 – Satiated? Good. Here’s our Offshore drilling.

1351 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic, Final – Two goals in the first six minutes decided the came, with the Czechs now in position to advance with a win over Poland on Saturday. Greece got a gift goal and plenty of time to find an equalizer, but with a match with Russia to close their Group A schedule, Greece is barely in this tournament.

Match report in about 30. Go get a bite to eat, will ya?

1347 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Neither sides creating chances but the Czech Republic holding enough of the ball to kill time, Michal Pilek makes his final chance. Daniel Kolar, who came on at halftime for Tomas Rosicky, comes off. Frantisek Rajtoral is brought on to reinforce the defense.

1336 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Santos’s last set of changes has moved Samaras farther left and farther back, and he’s been able to provide another route into attack, carrying the ball along the left side. You could see the passing for Giorgios Karagounis and long balls for Kostas Katsouranis eventually providing Greece and equalizer, but right now they’re not generating many chances.

1327 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Greece is preparing to make their final substitution, and it will be an attacking one. Kostas Mitroglou will come on. Young Kostas Fortounis will come off. Between Mitroglou, Fanis Gekas, Samaras and Salpingidis, this is about as attacking as Greece can be.

1322 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Czechs had made another change. Milan Baros is off. Tomas Pakhart is on. Baros was pretty useless.

1310 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Petr Cech and Tomas Sivok combine to gift Greece a goal, giving them hope. A passionless ball from Giorgios Samaras on the right bounces toward the spot. Cech’s coming for what looks like an each grab, but he and Sivok collide. The ball rolls to Theofanis Gekas who has an easy finish into an open net.

Looking at the replay, Cech had lost control of the ball before he an Sivok (not Kadlec) collided. He just got kind of spooked by the defender and lost control of the situation.

1302 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – We’re back. Second half has started. Each team makes one halftime chance. Tomas Rosicky is off for the Czechs with Viktoria Plzen’s Daniel Kolar on. That’s either an injury or preservation. For Greece, Theofanis Gekas on for the relatively anonymous Giorgos Fotakis.

1301 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – Some numbers … Possession: Czech Republic 51-49; Shots: Czech Republic 6-2; Shots on target: Czech Republic 3-2.

1247 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – That’s halftime, and as you can tell by the (in)frequency of updates, thinks slowed down dramatically after the opening fireworks. The Czech Republic still looked the better them but only tested Sifakis once. At the other end, Greece never worried Petr Cech. Their best rout into attack has been Katsouranis playing long balls out of the back, but Samaras has not been able to win enough of them.

Who needs coffee?

1221 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias plays a ball out an raises his hand to the bench. He needs to come off. Michalis Sifakis comes in, the second match in a row Greece has been forced into a first half substitution.

1219 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece has come into the match, evening things from the Czechs’ rousing opening. Neither team’s creating any decent chances. Greece looks a little more sure of themselves at the back, though they seem to have few options in attack when they try to get forward.

1206 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – This has been a horror tournament for Jose Holebas. Right back Theodor Gebre Selassie beats Holebas to the line, cuts it into the six where Vaclav Pilar wins a battle with Katsouranis, scoring his second goal of the tournament.

1205 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Pre-match we speculated Giannis Maniatis would drop back and play central defense. It’s actually Kostas Katsouranis.

1203 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Petr Jiracek has put the Czech up within three minutes. Tomas Hubschman finds Petr Jiracek cutting across Jose Holebas from the right. He’s in on got and finishes into the right netting. It’s 1-0.

1200 – Greece 0-0 Czech Republic – We’re off, with Greece moving from left to right.

1155 – Teams are on the field and listen to/singing their anthems. Kick off is minutes away.

1117 – We’re still a long way from the top of the hour kickoff, but here are your lineups and my obligatory picks:

Czech Republic: Čech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Sivok, Limberský, Rosický, Plašil, Pilař, Hübschman, Jiráček, Baroš SUBS: Laštuvka, Drobný, Suchý, Hubník, Rajtoral, Rezek, Petržela, Kolář, Darida, Necid.

Two changes for the Czechs. Viktoria Plzen’s David Limbersky comes in at the back for Roman Hubnik while defensive midfielder Tomas Hubschman gets the start, pushing Jan Rezek to the bench. That likely moves Jaroslav Plasil higher in the formation (into the attacking line of the Czech Republic’s 4-2-3-1). Huschman’s set to start next to Petr Jiracek in front of the defense.

Greece: Chalkias, Maniatis, Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Holebas, Karagounis, Fotakis, Katsouranis, Fortounis, Samaras, Salpingidis SUBS: Tzorvas, Sifakis, Tzavellas, Malezas, Makos, Ninis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Gekas, Pekhart, Lafata.

As we speculated in the preview, Fernando Santos seems to have dropped midfielder Giannis Maniatis into defense, with both Greece’s starting center halves out for this one. Nineteen-year-old Kostas Fourtounis will take his place in midfield. There are two other changes. Sotiris Ninis and Theofanis Gekas go to the bench.  Giorgos Fotakis and first match hero Dimitris Salpingidis are in the XI.

Picks for today? I have Greece 2-1 and Poland to upset Russia by the same score.
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.

It’s prediction time! Who wins MLS Cup 2016?

KANSAS CITY, KS - DECEMBER 07:  The Philip F. Anschutz trophy is seen on the field before the start of the match between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup at Sporting Park on December 7, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Because it’s extremely easy to predict what happens in MLS — yeah, right — the Stateside portion of PST’s staff has taken it upon themselves to predict the upcoming 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, which kick of Wednesday night, for you. (Links to each of our Twitter accounts have been included, because… well, you know why.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Nicholas Mendola

Knockout round

Toronto FC over Philadelphia Union
D.C. United over Montreal Impact
Real Salt Lake over LA Galaxy
Sporting Kansas City over Seattle Sounders

Conference semifinals

New York Red Bulls over DCU
TFC over New York City FC
FC Dallas over RSL
Colorado Rapids over SKC

Conference finals

FCD over Colorado


TFC over FCD

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Andy Edwards

Knockout round

TFC over Philadelphia
DCU over Montreal
RSL over LA
Seattle over SKC

Conference semifinals

FCD over RSL
Seattle over Colorado

Conference finals

Seattle over FCD


RBNY over Seattle

[ MORE: Decision Day madness in the West | And in the East ]

Kyle Bonn

Knockout round

TFC over Philadelphia
DCU over Montreal
LA over RSL
Seattle over SKC

Conference semifinals

Colorado over LA
Seattle over FCD

Conference finals

Colorado over Seattle


RBNY over Colorado

[ MORE: Three MLS sides advance to Champions League knockout rounds ]

Matt Reed

Knockout round

TFC over Philadelphia
DCU over Montreal
LA over RSL
Seattle over SKC

Conference semifinals

Seattle over FCD
LA over Colorado


RBNY over Seattle

MLS Power Rankings: Going to the playoffs edition

Seattle Sounders' Nicolas Lodeiro (10), Herculez Gomez, center, and Jordan Morris, right, celebrate a goal by Lodeiro in the first half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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As we prepare for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, which kick off Wednesday night, we take one last shot at MLS power rankings, featuring only the 12 times still fighting in the postseason.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Which are the sides most likely to represent the East and the West in MLS Cup 2016? Let’s talk it out…

Eastern Conference

1. New York Red Bulls — Bradley Wright-Phillips scored 24 goals this season, including 14 in RBNY’s last 12 games. Sacha Kljestan finished the season with 19 assists, but should have had 20. Not to bury the lead here, but they haven’t lost a game since July 3 (9 wins, 6 draws). That’s an absurd run capped off with four straight wins to finish the regular season. Throw in the fact they’ll host the decisive second leg in every round up until MLS Cup, and it’s hard to see anyone else coming out of the East..

2a. D.C. United — Outside of Sunday’s finale in which Ben Olsen sat 10 of 11 regular staters — you’re not throwing me off your scent, buddy — DCU have destroyed everything and everyone in their path over the last month (four straight wins, by a combined score of 12-3). The strategy is simple: press high, win the ball, get it wide, get it in the box, Patrick Mullins will finish it. If they don’t win it early, they drop into a defensive shell that’ll frustrate you into a rage-quit.

2b. Toronto FC — Here’s my TFC theory: they’re better off playing in the knockout round, because Sebastian Giovinco, who’s only two games back from a month out with injuries, needs that extra bit of sharpness that’s still missing. Everything around the reigning MVP fell into place pretty well with him absent — the midfield diamond still ticks over best with Will Johnson on the field, and he should be back soon — and Jozy Altidore looks like a man possessed. They’re still TFC, though, and until they’re no longer “oh, that TFC,” it’s hard to totally trust them.

4. New York City FC — Is this team good? They won 54 points from 34 games, so of course they’re good on paper, but only three teams conceded more goals on the season (57). Of course, they outscored everyone (62). That’s rarely been the winning formula in the playoffs, though, and David Villa, for every wonderful thing he’s done his first two seasons in MLS, is still only one man.

5. Montreal Impact — Didier Drogba is still a member of this team, right? While he’s mostly inconsequential outside of the Impact lacking an impact forward off the bench, that’s just a bad omen to ride into the postseason, isn’t it? There’s not much to separate Montreal and Philadelphia other than if the Impact are to win a couple games in the playoffs, I know how they do it: Ignacio Piatti turns on video-game mode and draws 20,000 jaws to the floor.

6. Philadelphia Union — The Union, on the other hand, I have no idea what them winning a game looks like — theoretically or literally. It’s been two months since they’ve done it, they don’t remember what it’s like either. Bless Jim Curtin for trotting out a super-young defensive unit out there all season — they’ll be better for it next year — but they simply ran out of steam down the stretch (14 goals conceded in 7 games without a win).

[ MORE: Decision Day madness in the West | And in the East ]

Western Conference

1a. FC Dallas — I came really, really close — like, thisfreakingclose — to putting the Sounders at 1a, and FCD at 1b. The loss Mauro Diaz (torn achilles) last week and the transfer of Fabian Castillo in August would be season-ending blows to, quite literally, every other team in MLS. Yet, this is an FCD squad that is unbelievably deep, embarrassingly rich with talent all over the field, and motivated and prepared by the smartest coach in the league, Oscar Pareja. Papi will cook up a brand new scheme that’ll transform them into an impossible out in the playoffs, rather than the light-em-up attacking juggernaut they would have otherwise been. He is solely responsible for FCD at 1a.

1b. Seattle Sounders — Since Brian Schmetzer was named the interim head coach on July 26, the Sounders’ record is as follows: 8W, 4D, 2L. I could stop right there, and that’d be a solid enough case, but I’d be ignoring Nicolas Lodeiro, who has resurrected the a team that was truly dead when they quit on Sigi Schmid on July 24. Lodeiro’s numbers: 4 goals, 8 assists in 12 games played (all 1,080 minutes). Also of the utmost importance: the emergence of Cristian Roldan, a willing and able midfield runner who might just extend the career of Osvaldo Alonso by two or three years. You do not want to see this team in the playoffs.

3. Colorado Rapids — Speaking of teams you don’t want to see, purely from a standpoint of “they are annoyingly difficult to play against,” the Pablo Mastroeni’s Rapids conceded 32 goals in 34 games this season. If there’s one team in MLS 2016 that simply will not beat itself, it’s the Rapids. Their ceiling is mostly limited, but their bottom-out floor is higher than perhaps anyone else’s.

4. LA Galaxy — Saying the following goes against everything we’ve witnessed the last decade or so, but the Galaxy are something of a non-starter heading into these playoffs, from a standpoint of “we have absolutely no idea who or what this team is.” Robbie Keane played just 17 games all year (just six since the beginning of August), and it’s pretty undeniably Giovani dos Santos’ team now (14 goals, 12 assists). Gyasi Zardes hasn’t played since Aug. 27, and he may or may not come back to play in the playoffs after breaking his foot. Steven Gerrard has played 118 minutes in the last 10 games. That’s a whole lot of questions, and very few answers.

5. Sporting Kansas City — A shaky defensive team prone to costly mistakes at the most inopportune of times; no real focal point offensively, from a strategic standpoint. They do have a 16-goal-scorer in Dom Dwyer, and a dynamic playmaker (at his best) in Benny Feilhaber, but but the supporting cast has been mostly “meh” all season.

6. Real Salt Lake — The final seven games of the regular season is not a great time for your longest winless run of the campaign. Four losses, three draws in the months of September and October.

Combined rankings

2. FCD
3. Sounders
4. DCU
5. TFC
6. Rapids
8. Galaxy
9. Impact
10. SKC
11. RSL
12. Union

Serie A: Napoli end losing streak; Inter Milan beaten again

CROTONE, ITALY - OCTOBER 23:   Josè Maria Callejon (R) and Dries Mertens of Napoli celebrate the opening goal during the Serie A match between FC Crotone and SSC Napoli at Stadio Comunale Ezio Scida on October 23, 2016 in Crotone, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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ROME (AP) A visit to last-place Crotone was just what Napoli needed to end a three-match losing streak.

Roma also won against a lowly opponent, beating Palermo to reclaim second place from AC Milan.

Inter Milan, meanwhile, lost its third straight Serie A match to increase the pressure on coach Frank de Boer.

Despite losing center forward Manolo Gabbiadini to a red card, 10-man Napoli won 2-1 Sunday to spoil Crotone’s first top-division game in its home stadium.

Jose Callejon scored 17 minutes in and Nikola Maksimovic doubled the lead in the 33rd, shortly after Gabbiadini was sent off.

Aleandro Rosi pulled one back for Crotone in the 89th.

Gabbiadini was on the ground after being fouled by Gian Marco Ferrari and reacted by flicking his boot into the back of Ferrari’s leg.

It was Gabbiadini’s first red card in 153 career Serie A matches.

Ferrari was shown a yellow.

Both of Napoli’s goals were aided by poor defense.

Callejon redirected the ball in by the far post after a cross from Dries Mertens was deflected right toward him. Recently called up to Spain’s national team, Callejon has been involved in a league-best eight goals this season with six goals and two assists.

Maksimovic also scored near the far post, following a corner.

Napoli had lost two straight in Serie A and was also beaten by Besiktas in the Champions League this week.

Napoli is fourth, four points behind Juventus and two behind Roma and Milan, which beat Juve 1-0 on Saturday.

Promoted to the top division for the first time in its 106-year history, Crotone played its first three home matches 600 kilometers (375 miles) away in Pescara while its Ezio Scida stadium was expanded to meet league regulations.

The Calabrian club remained with one point.

“We did well in a situation that could have been very difficult, because Crotone was playing at home for the first time, the pitch wasn’t worthy of a professional match and we were down to 10 men after a half-hour,” Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri said. “I’m happy that the lads will rediscover some confidence.”

Here’s a look at the rest of the action in the Italian league Sunday:

Mohamed Salah scored from a tight angle shortly after the half-hour mark after being set up by Edin Dzeko.

Leandro Paredes made it 2-0 in the 51st with a free kick that surprised Palermo goalkeeper Josip Posavec.

Dzeko added another in the 68th, finishing off a pretty series of passes with a low shot from the edge of the area for his league-best eighth of the season – the same number of goals he scored in his 31 appearances last season.

Robin Quaison pulled one back for Palermo in the 80th but Stephan El Shaarawy quickly restored Roma’s three-goal advantage.

Mauricio Pinilla scored the winner for Atalanta with a penalty two minutes from time.

After Davide Santon was whistled for a foul on Franck Kessie, Pinilla drilled the spot kick into the top left corner, leaving Samir Handanovic no chance even though the Inter goalkeeper guessed the right direction.

Andrea Masiello had put Atalanta in front with an early header and Eder equalized for Inter with a free kick after the break.

While Inter defeated Juventus in September, it’s been a difficult debut campaign in Italy for De Boer, who was hired when Roberto Mancini resigned less than two weeks before the season started.

“The only thing we can do is work hard to get out of this situation,” De Boer said. “I want to see the squad have more courage with the ball. … It’s a tough time for everyone.”

Inter captain Mauro Icardi failed to put a single shot on target after being punished by the club for his comments about the team’s hard-core “ultra” fans in his autobiography.

Atalanta, which extended its unbeaten streak to four matches, moved up to eighth while Inter dropped to 14th.

Torino and Lazio remained level on points, six points behind Juventus, after a draw that was determined with a penalty kick from Torino’s Adem Ljajic in added time.

After Iago Falque put Torino ahead midway through the first half, Ciro Immobile equalized for Lazio against his former club in the 71st with an acrobatic effort.

Substitute Alessandro Murgia scored his first Serie A goal in the 84th for Lazio before Marco Parolo was whistled for a questionable hand ball to set up Ljajic’s spot kick.

Nikola Kalinic scored a hat trick and Federico Bernardeschi added two more goals as Fiorentina won 5-3 at Cagliari.

Sassuolo and Bologna drew 1-1 in an Emilia-Romagna derby, Empoli and Chievo Verona played to a 0-0 draw in which Chievo protested for a goal even though goal-line technology showed that the ball wasn’t fully in; and French forward Cyril scored twice for Udinese in a 3-1 win over visiting Pescara.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

La Liga: Real Madrid win late, stay top; Atleti lose to Sevilla

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring their second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 23, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Coach Jorge Sampaoli felt Sevilla needed a big win against a top opponent to establish itself as a true contender in Spain.

He got just that on Sunday as his team defeated previously unbeaten Atletico Madrid 1-0 to stay near the top of the Spanish league.

French midfielder Steven N’Zonzi netted the winner in the 73rd minute at a packed Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium to give the hosts their third straight win.

“It was an important game to consolidate ourselves against a team that looked unbeatable,” Sampaoli said. “We did well against one of the best teams in the world. This victory makes me proud.”

Sevilla, which has won six straight at home, reached 20 points from nine rounds, one point behind Real Madrid, which is top after a 2-1 home win against Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona, which defeated Valencia 3-2 Saturday thanks to an injury-time penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi, is third with 19 points.

“It’s going to be tight like this the entire season,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

There had been some early doubts about Sampaoli as Sevilla lost in the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona and the UEFA Super Cup to Real Madrid. But after the up-and-down start, the Argentine coach has finally been able to put Sevilla on track. As well as contending in Spain, the Andalusian club is also in a good position to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Atletico, which had the lead coming into the weekend, dropped to fifth place, three points behind Madrid.

Diego Simeone’s team played with 10 men from the 77th on Sunday because of a second yellow card shown to midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion.

Sampaoli made key adjustments at halftime, allowing his team to take control of the game and earn the hard-fought victory under pouring rain in Seville.

N’Zonzi scored the winner on a fast breakaway, speeding past two defenders after receiving a great throughball from striker Luciano Vietto. The Frenchman entered the area and calmly sent a low shot into the far corner as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak charged from the net.

Real Madrid needed an 83rd-minute winner by substitute Alvaro Morata to earn a hard-fought win against Athletic Bilbao.

Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead just seven minutes into the game at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Sabin Merino equalized in the 27th and held on for most of the match.

Morata, celebrating his 24th birthday, scored from close range less than 10 minutes after replacing Benzema. Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made the initial save but Morata persisted and found the open net off the rebound.

“I feel like a 10-year-old,” Morata said. “We won and we are in the lead, it couldn’t have been better.”

It was Madrid’s second straight win after three consecutive draws in the league.

Madrid and Villarreal are the only unbeaten clubs in the league after nine rounds.

Athletic is sixth on 15 points, six behind Madrid.

French striker Cedric Bakambu scored the winner in second-half injury time for Villarreal, but it was Las Palmas’ Kevin-Prince Boateng who attracted all the attention with a remarkable goal before halftime.

Boateng’s side volley from inside the area came after a mid-air, back-heel pass by Pedro Tana, who flicked the ball across the area for Boateng to shoot firmly into the corner.

Still unbeaten in the league this season, Villarreal has won three of its last four games and is in fourth place with 19 points.

Celta Vigo rebounded from two consecutive losses with a comfortable home win over Deportivo La Coruna behind a pair of goals by striker Iago Aspas.

After a 4-3 loss to Barcelona and a 5-0 defeat against Villarreal, Celta cruised to victory against struggling Deportivo to move to eighth place with 13 points.

The teams were tied 1-1 when Aspas converted a 60th-minute penalty kick. Chilean midfielder Fabian Orellana added to the lead in the 78th and Aspas closed the scoring in the 83rd at the Balaidos Stadium.

Deportivo, which has lost four of its last five games, dropped to 17th in the 20-team standings.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni