Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Here’s the other, controversial side of Saturday’s Clasico

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We played it straight when telling you about another Clasico win for Real Madrid. Given the Merengues’ performance, they deserved as much. For all of Barcelona’s possession, they were never the better team. Real Madrid earned their 2-1 victory.

There were two points of controversy that deserve more attention, including one which will leave Barcelona fans feeling slighted.

Here’s how The Guardian’s Gregg Bukowski described it:

Barcelona are denied a clear penalty at the death. They have every right to feel aggrieved. Ramos clearly trips Adriano, who snakes into the penalty area and shapes to shoot. Ramos was nowhere near the ball as he dangled his left leg out and caught Adriano’s shin. Real break and the whistle blows …

Let’s accept the premise that Ramos’s foul was penalty-worthy. Most would agree. Does that mean Barcelona necessarily have a right to be “aggrieved”?

In one sense, of course. A foul is a foul, and Barcelona has a right to expect they’ll be called just like they’d expect an offside, hand ball, or dangerous play to be whistled.

But let’s not make too much out of this.

I would certainly prefer soccer not include these kind of nebulous, unfortunate situations, but when you’re preparing your team for a game, you have to account for the possibility of human error. It is a part of the sport, and if you’re leaving your team in a position to need every call to go your way, you’re occupying a compromised position. You have to enable your team to overcome these slights, and down 2-1 late at the Bernabeu, Barcelona had no margin for error.

The harsh reality is most referees don’t call potentially game-deciding penalties at the end of games. Players know this. Coaches know this. Officials even know this, just as those of us who write about and watch the game know it. You can say Barcelona should feel wronged, but not any more so than every other team that’s been in that situation.

It’s nothing special, and it’s no reason to feel particularly wronged. If Barcelona had experienced something complete unexpected – something for which they couldn’t have planned – then we’d have something to talk about. Today, however, they wanted a whistle few teams will ever get. That’s not a reason to be upset.

But perhaps that feeling contributed to another unfortunate late-match incident, once that erupted after the final whistle. Not uncommon to this rivalry, there was a confrontation after the match. Barcelona players rushed the referee, and Victor Valdés saw red.

That these players haven’t figured out a way to restrain themselves is huge indictment of the players and staffs. That it was Barcelona who seemed more aggressive after is an ironic twist. After two years of seeing a hyper-aggressive, physical Real Madrid instigate these confrontations it’s Barcelona, now on the losing end of these derbies, that’s letting their immaturity show.

Maybe isn’t not immaturity. I may be underestimating the influence of the atmosphere this rivalry creates. Perhaps these Clasicos spark unconscious, blinding rage whenever you lose. Perhaps it’s wrong for me to expect adults used to being in this environment to avoid acting like teenagers.

But it’s far more likely these players are just being ridiculous. Since the team can’t figure it out for themselves, the LFP needs to do something about it.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET