Clasico: Late Varane goal keeps Real Madrid even with Barcelona

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Over the past two seasons it may have seemed like the myriad of Clasicos transcended the soccer world, today’s predictably cagey first 90 minutes of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s two-legged Copa del Rey semifinal destroyed truly detached itself from the context of the season. A Real Madrid team that trails Barcelona by 15 points in league and was without their goalkeeping captain and their two best center backs managed to go toe-to-toe with a Blaugrana side that’s only tasted defeat twice this season. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear today’s 1-1 result was from last year, when Real Madrid was taking Spain from their rivals.

But since these clubs are never out of the news, you already knew how much Real Madrid has struggled. And you probably know that their locker room is in turmoil (which Iker Casillas’s journalist girlfriend confirmed to Mexican television yesterday). And you probably know there’s almost no way José Mourinho will be back at the Bernabeu and Crisitiano Ronaldo’s holding off on signing a contract extension with the club.

Yet there we were near 3:50 p.m. Eastern time, tied 0-0 at halftime of a match that we’ve repeatedly seen some version of over the last two years. Real Madrid was frantically and physically pressing through the midfield, disrupting Xavi Hernández whenever the Barcelona quarterback would drop for the ball. Play goes wide, comes back in as it approaches the final third, and Barcelona can rarely craft a ball to beat the Real back line. Barça ends up dominating possession, but with swift counterattacks that eschew prudence for speed, Real’s able to create as many chances.

Come full-time at the Bernabeu, the story had finished playing out. Barcelona held 61 percent of the game’s possession, but they’d only put one more shot toward goal (9-8). Their early second half goal from Cesc Fábregas (made possible when a defender was dragged uncommonly deep behind the line, keeping Fábrages onside in the right of the box) was equalized late by 19-year-old Raphael Varane, the French prospect playing because of the absences of Pepé and Sergio Ramos.

Though Real was at home and may have wanted to build a first leg lead, they know a result on the road is within their powers. They got a result in Barcelona last October. Barça may convince themselves they have a leg up on their rivals, but given the familiarity these sides have with each other and their respective grounds, it’s more likely nothing’s changed but the clock. Instead of 180 minutes to decide one Cup finalist, the rivals are down to 90.

And just was today’s game predictably transcended the teams’ extra-Clasico form, you can expect Feb. 26th’s meeting to be the same game we’ve come to expect, fear, and revere. Can Barcelona handle Real Madrid’s pressure? Will El Real convert the breaks they receive? Will either side make the debilitating mistake that might define this two-legged Clasico? Who’s going to get red carded?

Real Madrid has stumbled all year, but for one day, they were back to being one of the two best clubs in the world. Expect the same next month.

Wagner on Huddersfield Town’s 2-0 start: “This is unbelievable”

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Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is glowing with the knowledge that his newly-promoted side is 2-0 in the Premier League.

Sunday’s win over Newcastle United was closer than an opening weekend win at Crystal Palace, with Aaron Mooy’s 18-yard beauty a moment the record crowd at The John Smith’s Stadium will remember for a very long time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wagner, the one-time USMNT midfielder, pumped his fist for the home fans in a post-match salute, then waxed poetic about Mooy and the club.

From the BBC:

“It was top-class quality for the goal, Premier League quality and that is why Mooy is playing in this league. The atmosphere was incredible today, the support was Premier League quality. First Premier League game at home, a win and clean sheet.”

“We are Huddersfield Town, nobody should forget this. We got promoted at Wembley but we have started the season with two wins and six points. This is unbelievable. Everybody has invested so much and I am happy for them.”

The mark of a decent club is outperforming expectations and picking up wins regardless of luck. Town probably wasn’t three goals better than Palace, and it failed to outchance a lifeless Newcastle United team but remains unbeaten to start life in the Premier League.

And these six points could stand up as a difference in whether Town are fighting a relegation battle or planning for next season before this one’s through.

Borussia Dortmund boy wonder the next big thing?

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Remember the name: Youssoufa Moukoko.

The 12-year-old has scored eight goals in three games for Borussia Dortmund’s U-17 side to start the season and scored four goals against Viktoria Cologne in a 6-1 win on Saturday.

Originally from Cameroon, Moukoko joined Dortmund from St Pauli in 2016 and starred for BVB’s U-15 team last season, scoring 33 goals.

Take a look at the video below to see Moukoko in all his glory.

Maybe we have a new star youngster to talk about with Karamoko Dembele stealing the show for the past 12 months.

Huddersfield Town 1-0 Newcastle United: Mooy magic tops Magpies

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  • Town starts PL life 2-0
  • Newcastle 0-2
  • Mooy scores on lone attempt

In a game with very few chances, Aaron Mooy made his count as Huddersfield Town topped Newcastle United 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

A match between two promoted sides looked very much like a second-tier affair aside from Mooy’s moment of brilliance just after halftime.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A boisterous stadium greeted the teams, and Town’s support was at full throat only to see Newcastle get the first chance when Dwight Gayle played Ayoze Perez into the 18 and saw the Spaniard’s shot blocked.

Town’s Elias Kachunga cut Chancel Mbemba with a high challenge, but it failed to see a card unlike two similar sending offs in the league on Saturday.

A series of sloppy plays by Newcastle allowed Aaron Mooy to test Rob Elliot, but he didn’t get enough on his low attempt to best the diving keeper.

Town remained the better money for an opener, and Tom Ince laced a hard shot at Elliot off a Christian Atsu turnover well into Newcastle’s end.

Matt Richie nearly opened the scoring against the run of play in the 16th minute when he thumped a far post effort that Jonas Lossl pushed wide for a corner.

The Magpies settled into the match, though, and had the better of the play for the final 15-20 minutes of the first half.

A terrible giveaway from Mikel Merino allowed Town a prime chance to take the lead, but Chancel Mbemba made a terrific sliding tackle inside his 18 and the Magpies handled a pair of corners.

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[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Town took the lead in the 50th minute through Mooy, who worked a perfect 1-2 with Kachunga to curl home inside the far post from the paint of the 18-yard box.

That spurred Rafa Benitez to insert new signing Joselu for Gayle.

Quality chances remained at a premium when Merino played a long diagonal ball into the box for Javier Manquillo, but Lossl collected the pass back into the fray.

Atsu and Joselu traded passes before Lossl tipped Joselu’s low shot out for a corner. Ciaran Clark headed the ensuing corner to Perez who, alone in front of goal, blazed over the bar.

Joselu flicked another header into Lossl’s arms in the 84th minute.

Stream Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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A rivalry which has escalated in recent years rears its ferocious head when Tottenham hosts Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Spurs vs. Chelsea ]

Spurs boast a steely midfield with Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, and Eric Dier behind the skillful Christian Eriksen.

As for Chelsea, Alvaro Morata moves into the starting lineup following a strong substitute’s performance in last week’s loss to Burnley.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Dele, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Walker-Peters, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger, Kante, Bakayoko, Moses, Willian, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Musonda, Kenedy, Pedro, Batshuayi, Tomori, Scott.