Barcelona started the season with a six-goal first half at the Nou Camp, going on to beat Levante, 7-0. They’re 45 minutes that now stand in stark contrast to tonight’s first half at the Vicente Calderon – the start of Spanish Super Cup.
Through the first half of the two-leg match, Atlético Madrid (last year’s Copa deal Rey champions) hounded Barcelona to the edge of distinction. The defending Spanish champions failed to put a shot on goal as Atlético, thanks to a 12th minute goal from former Blaugrana David Villa, took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
But the deficit was the least of Barcelona’s halftime worries. Lionel Messi, who scored twice in his team’s opening weekend victory, was brought off for Cesc Fabregas at the beginning of the second, a thigh injury picked up in the first half preventing the four-time Balon d’Or-winner from continuing.
Half-way through the second period, Barcelona finally started stressing the Atlético defense, with Neymar (brought on at the hour mark) scoring his first goal for the club in the 66th minute. On a cross from Dani Alves, Neymar was left unmarked at the far post, heading down and past Thibaut Courtois for Barcelona’s only goal:
Barcelona take the 1-1 result back to the Nou Camp for next week’s second leg. In between, they travel to Andalusia to take on Málaga. In the mean time, Atlético will host fellow Madrid club Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Despite the competitive match at the Vicente Calderon, with the result of the tie still very much in doubt, the talking points out of today’s game will center on Barcelona’s change of fortune, Messi’s injury, and …:
- What happened between Sunday’s rout and Wednesday’s struggles? Likely, nothing. Levante are just bad. On the road against a much higher caliber opponent, Barcelona’s results were always going to regress, and while most may have them winning today’s game, there’s no shame in drawing against last year’s third place finisher. The bigger concern will be a first half in which Atlético appeared to be the much more inspired side.
- Messi’s injury will spark memories of last year, when his spring was hindered by a hamstring problem. It’s not that today’s injury is related; rather, it will rekindle nightmares of how different Barcelona were without him. Their 7-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in UEFA Champions League’s semifinals spoke to the dependence Barcelona’s developed on their star. Perhaps Neymar can change that, but still unable to go 90 minutes, it’s too early to be relying on the Brazilian for anything . Today’s goal was a bonus.
- Finally, those kits. Barcelona were with a yellow and red vertical stripes, a look I’d never seen before. Kit Nerds may have known this was coming; if so, I really wish they would have warned us. We don’t need to see this look again.
LIMA, Peru (AP) Peru has extradited the country’s former soccer boss to the United States for his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar FIFA bribery scandal involving marketing and broadcasting rights.
Manuel Burga was sent to New York on a commercial flight before dawn on Friday.
He has been in jail since December 2015 as part of the investigation. Peru’s Supreme Court in June cleared the way for his extradition and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed a decree authorizing the move a week ago.
Burga oversaw Peru’s football federation for more than a decade until 2014. He has denied any wrongdoing.
While the battle for MLS Cup 2016 has been dwindled down to two sides, the rest of the league continues to make roster transactions in preparation for next season.
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The San Jose Earthquakes announced on Friday that the club has exercised options on six players, including goalkeeper David Bingham, Fatai Alashe, Kip Colvey and Victor Bernardez.
Additionally, the Earthquakes have released nine players, including U.S. Men’s National Team defender Clarence Goodson, Marc Pelosi and Tommy Thompson, however, the latter two are reportedly in talks to return to the club in 2017.
NAPLES, Italy (AP) Napoli eased to a 3-0 win over Inter Milan in Serie A on Friday, with two goals in the opening five minutes.
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The home side got off to a lightning start as, following a wonderful team move, Jose Callejon headed back Marek Hamsik’s chipped pass for Piotr Zielinski to volley into the bottom left corner.
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Zielinski turned provider moments later as Hamsik beat the offside trap to run onto his pass and fire into the bottom right corner.
It was Hamsik’s 104th goal for Napoli, moving him level with Edinson Cavani in third in the clubs’ goalscoring charts. The Slovakia forward needs 11 more to equal Diego Maradona’s record.
Inter started the second half aggressively but hopes of getting back into the match were scuppered six minutes after the restart when Lorenzo Insigne netted his fourth goal in three league matches after visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic only flapped at a corner.
Napoli moved level on points with Atalanta, which visits league leader Juventus on Saturday, and fourth-placed Lazio, which hosts Roma in the capital derby on Sunday.
Inter, which beat Fiorentina 4-2 on Monday for its first win under coach Stefano Pioli, remained eighth ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.
On a day where Atlanta United added another young talent, the 2017 MLS expansion side could be preparing to make a major splash for a South American playmaker.
According to numerous Argentine media outlets, Atlanta is closing in on signing Paraguay international Miguel Almiron for an MLS-record fee of $13 million from Lanus at the end of 2016.
Almiron, 22, has scored three goals in 34 appearances for Lanus since joining the Argentine club in 2015. The young winger began his professional career back in 2013 with Cerro Porteno, where Almiron also played for the club’s youth academy.
On the international stage, Almiron has already earned seven caps for Paraguay after previously representing the nation’s Under-17 and U-20 national teams.