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Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid: Ronaldo hat-trick as Spanish giants rout on the road (Video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo hit thrice and Karim Benzema grabbed a brace to dominate the Turkish giants at home and ensure Real Madrid their first three points of Champions League play under Carlo Ancelotti in Istanbul.

Gareth Bale did not start the match, having played just 60 minutes in the weekend’s draw with Villareal. Manager Ancelotti said that Bale was still only around 75% fit, so it’s no surprise he did not make the starting eleven.

The Galatasaray midfield surprisingly started on top, pressing both Sami Khedira and Luka Modric hard to prevent build-up play. This forced the creativity out wide, and the defense was able to then concentrate on guarding wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria.

Iker Casillas began the match in goal, having received the blessing of Ancelotti as his chosen Champions League goalkeeper, but Casillas was forced off in just the 15th minute with a rib injury.  He went up for a save and his own defender Sergio Ramos did not concede the position, also attempting to head the ball away and in the process elbowing Casillas in the ribs.

The game got increasingly physical, with Gatatasaray playing for free kicks and Real Madrid obliging.  Felipe Melo had two beautiful chances kept out early, with a long-range strike well saved by a diving Casillas before his injury.  Then, a free header was also pushed wide by substitute keeper Diego Lopez in the 30th minute.

Against the run of play, Isco opened the scoring with Real Madrid’s first shot on target in the 32nd minute, and the match’s first goal.  A very long ball off the mid-line from Di Maria resulted in a contested header in the box.  Emmanuel Eboue failed to get a head on the ball, instead falling down, and it left Isco with a free shot which hit off the post and into the back of the net.

After the halftime break Didier Drogba was replaced by Nordin Amarat due to a shoulder injury Drogba suffered just before halftime in a collision with Madrid defender Pepe.

Galatasaray should have had an equalizer just after the break in the 47th minute, but Burak Yilmaz put his thundering header just wide left.

source: Getty ImagesKarim Benzema took advantage of a Galatasaray mistake for the deathblow in the 54th minute.  Melo headed a ball in the midfield but it landed directly to Benzema behind the defense, and the French striker did the rest himself, slotting it past Fernando Muslera for a 2-0 Real Madrid lead.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged his team’s third in the 63rd minute, a goal that left the legendary winger chuckling. Di Maria got past Muslera on the right edge of the box, but his cross went over Ronaldo’s head. Thankfully, it fell to Isco who cut it back for Ronaldo to smash in from very short range. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

He got a second just three minutes later, when Sergio Ramos’s header off a free kick was saved, and the rebound fell to Ronaldo for an easy finish as Real Madrid poured it on.

Benzema got his second in the 81st minute.  A lovely touch from Ronaldo on the left edge of the box popped the ball across the face as the Frenchman got free and he stuck it home with ease. The consolation for Galatasaray came late for substitute Umut Bulut on a great run beating Pepe, but it did nothing to ease the pain for the home side.

Any fleeting happiness from the goal faded fast as Ronaldo secured his hat-trick in stoppage time with a ridiculous back-and-forth ball beating three Galatasaray defenders in the box before a smashing finish from a tight angle. The goal is his 53rd in 93 Champions League matches.

The comprehensive, dominating win is a major statement by the Spanish giants, as they look to impress under Carlo Ancelotti.

Goals:

Real Madrid – Isco 32′, Benzema 54′, 81′, Cristiano Ronaldo 63′, 66′

Galatasaray – Bulut 83′

Lineups:

Galatasaray – Muslera; Nounkeu, Chedjou, Eboue, Riera; Melo, Inan; Sneijder, Baytar (Bruma, 62′); Drogba (Amrabat, 45′), Yilmaz (Bulut, 78′).

Real Madrid – Casillas (Diego Lopez, 15′); Pepe, Ramos, Carvajal, Arbeloa; Khedira, Modric (Illarramendi, 72′); Ronaldo, Di Maria; Isco (Bale, 64′), Benzema.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

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Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

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According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

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Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.