Cristiano Ronaldo double helps Real Madrid see off 10-man Juventus

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Upsets usually require a confluence of factors: A strong performance from the underdog; a downturn from the favorites; and, some luck. Tuesday in Madrid, two of those factors broke Juventus’s way, with a slow start giving way to a strong performance augmented by their hosts’ complacency. But when two key calls went against them, a 10-man Bianconeri still fell at Real Madrid, 1-1.

Cristiano Ronaldo had beaten Gianluigi Buffon early, his fifth minute goal giving way to a period of Juventus control. A surprise four-man midfield from Juve boss Antonio Conte was controlling play and generating most of the games shots, even if many of them weren’t stressing Iker Casillas. In the 22nd minute, however, the visitors finally broke through, a header from Paul Proga onto Casillas’s line pushed into the path of Fernando Llorente. The former Athletic striker pulled his side even.

Then bad break number one for Juventus, though you can’t fault Manuel Gräfe’s decision. Giorgio Chiellini pulled down Sergio Ramos at the edge of the six-yard box on a 26th minute restart. Though the foul may have gone uncalled by less stringent officials, there was little doubt Chiellini had fouled his mark. Two minutes later, an unstoppable shot into the top of Buffon’s net gave Ronaldo his second goal.

By that time Real was putting up more of a fight through the middle, but out-manned by Conte’s shift in formation, the Spaniards were still second-best for much of the half, While that didn’t necessarily lead to a slew of Juventus chances, it did augur well for the Old Lady’s second half chances.

Those chances disappeared on the breath of another whistle, one that saw Chiellini sent off. But whereas the Italian international’s first half infraction seemed fair, his straight red in the 48th minute was harsh. Defending against Ronaldo on the right flank, his extended arm slipped along Ronaldo’s torso, eventually meeting his face. The assistant referee seemed to see the foul as a strike to the head, leading to Chiellini’s sending off.

Up a man, Real Madrid’s substitutions showed no sign of letting up. Gareth Bale came on for Karim Benzema, temporarily leaving El Real without a striker. Isco came on for the less attacking Asier Illarramendi. Then, birthday boy Álvaro Morata replaced Ángel Di María, by which time Real Madrid had firm control of the match. An insurance goal, however, eluded them.

source: Reuters
Giorgio Chiellini, whose foul on Sergio Ramos (right) led to Real Madrid’s second goal, saw straight red in the 48th minute of Juventus’s 2-1 loss at the Santiago Bernabéu. (Photo: Reuters.)

Over the last 10 minutes, Juventus tried to steal a result, forcing Real Madrid into a more defensive posture. Come stoppage time, Real Madrid were allowing the short-handed visitors to dictate the match, opting for security at the back in lieu of pressure at the top.

Ultimately, they were able to preserve their win and their perfect Champions League start. At 3-0-0, Carlo Ancelotti’s team is one of four clubs who’ll reach matchday four unblemished. While they failed to  play to their potential on Wednesday, they were good enough to take a five-point lead in Group B.

That group currently sees Juventus in third, Galatasaray’s win over Copenhagen leaving Juve two points back of the Turkish champions. Staring at another game against Real Madrid, Juventus may yet lose more ground to Roberto Mancini’s side, increasing the possibility they’ll have to win in Istanbul to reach the knockout round.

Lineups

REAL MADRID: Iker Casillas; Álvaro Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Sami Khedira, Asier Illarremendi (Isco 72′); Ángel Di María (Álvaro Morata, 79′), Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo; Karim Benzema (Gareth Bale, 60′). Unused subs: Diego López, Fabio Coentrao, Raphael Varane, Daniel Carvajal.

JUVENTUS: Gianluigi Buffon; Martín Cáceras, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Angelo Obinze Ogbonna (Sebastian Giovinco, 69′); Andrea Pirlo (Kwandwo Asamoach, 59′), Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio; Carlos Tévez, Fernando Llorente (Leonardo Bonucci, 50′). Unused subs: Mauricio Isla, Marco Storari, Federico Peluso, Simone Padoin.

Hope Solo says she has settled grievance with US Soccer

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Hope Solo has settled a grievance with U.S. Soccer over her suspension from the women’s national team following comments she made at the Rio Olympics.

The settlement was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The 35-year-old goalkeeper was suspended for six months and her contract with the federation was terminated after she called the Swedish team “a bunch of cowards” following the U.S. team’s quarterfinal loss.

Details about the settlement, reached last month, were not released. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Players Association filed the grievance on Solo’s behalf.

In a statement provided Friday to The Associated Press, Solo reiterated her regret over the comments.

“As I expressed in my apology to the Swedish captain immediately following the match, I have tremendous respect for the Swedish team, and in describing the style of play, I used a choice of words that was both offensive and not at all what I had intended to convey,” she said.

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“We have amicably resolved the matter and are moving forward in a positive way,” she added.

U.S. Soccer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Women’s Soccer Team Players Association declined to comment.

Solo anchored the team in goal for the 2015 Women’s World Cup victory, allowing just three goals in seven games with five shutouts during the tournament – earning her a second straight Golden Glove Award.

For her career, Solo has made 202 total appearances with the national team, with 153 wins and an international-record 102 shutouts.

The defending champion U.S. women were ousted from the Olympics last summer when Sweden advanced 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw.

Solo’s “cowards” quote came immediately following the loss. Sweden went on to play in the gold-medal match against Germany.

Solo told the AP in an interview late last year that she spoke to coach Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati following the loss, and felt that the issue was put to rest. After she returned to the United States, she said she was blindsided by the announcement about her suspension.

She said she believes U.S. Soccer wanted her off negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Solo has been an outspoken advocate for equal pay and was among the players who filed a complaint against the federation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination.

“Let’s call it what is, which is a firing,” Solo told AP then. “It was a termination of my contract effective immediately with severance. That is a firing. It wasn’t a suspension, that’s what they told the media because it looked better. But I got fired. I got fired for what they say was using the word `cowards’ but in reality they got rid of an adversary in the fight for equal pay.”

U.S. Soccer said at the time that Solo was suspended following a culmination of actions, and separately her contract was also terminated with the team.

Awful goalkeeping howler dooms Bayern to draw

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Bayern fans are already counting down the days until Manuel Neuer’s return in goal.

In his absence, Sven Ulreich has earned a pair of starts in Bundesliga play, and the most recent has not ended well. With Bayern leading Wolfsburg 2-0, Ulreich completely botched a simple save leading to Wolfsburg’s first goal, sparking a comeback from the visitors.

As Max Arnold delivered a free-kick 10 minutes after halftime, the ball sailed just over the wall and directly at Ulreich’s head. Instead of catching the attempt or using both hands to parry the shot, Ulreich raised just his right hand and failed to connect fully. The ball glanced off the side of his palm and into the back of the net to bring Wolfsburg a goal back.

The free-kick had decent pace, and it didn’t help that Sebastian Rudy made a poor attempt to block the delivery, but Ulreich won’t want to see a replay of that chance, as he made a hideous attempt to stop the shot. Wolfsburg would eventually equalize with just seven minutes remaining in the match as Daniel Didavi scored a pinpoint header in off the post. Ruddy let Didavi sneak behind him, and Paul Verhaegh delivered a fantastic long ball into the box for the 27-year-old to redirect in.

The draw means Bayern has failed to put pressure on Borussia Dortmund this weekend, leaving Die Roten level with their Dortmund rivals on 13 points with the latter still to host Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

Neuer likely won’t be back until January thanks to yet another foot injury, leaving Bayern to either continue along with Ulreich and hope he improves, or look for other options either in-house or on the free agent market. Ulreich came over from Stuttgart in the summer of 2015 and has backed up Neuer since.

Former Fulham midfielder Sidwell tells another amazing Felix Magath story

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German manager Felix Magath has always been known as a mercurial individual, but as time passes from his failed stint in charge of relegated club Fulham, more and more stories continue to flow from former players that absolutely boggle the mind.

The most famous story thus far has come from former Fulham defender Brede Hangeland about Magath’s suggestion that applying cottage cheese directly to his ailing knee would help solve his injury problem. Hangeland also spoke of how Magath would make the team run in the dead of night after returning from away trips, calling him “an awful human being.”

Now, former Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell, who spent three years at Craven Cottage, spoke up about his own experiences under Magath. Sidwell, now with Brighton but yet to make a Premier League appearance, told BBC 5 Live Sports about another time Magath was frustrated with his squad, and how he chose a different way to express that during training.

“We played poorly – I can’t remember what game it was – and we got off the bus and he said ‘right, well everyone in tomorrow at 8:00 and we’re gonna train.’ We was due a day off but we’re gonna be in for training. So everyone got in, we got outside…there was no balls coming out with us so we’re thinking ‘right, ok.’ So he’s gone ‘right, your formation yesterday, can you get in your positions?’ So we got on the pitch…goalkeeper, back four, midfield four, two strikers…stood there. And he said, ‘right, you didn’t want to run around yesterday, we’re not gonna run around today.’ And he just blew the whistle, and he said ‘everyone just stand still.’ And we had to just stand still. And it was a cold day, and there was a couple lads with gloves on, they was off straight away. There was leaves blowing across the pitch, you couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, you had to just stand there, and I think we was just there for about 40 minutes just standing there.”

In. Credible. Stuff. Sidwell also said that Magath had every player participate in a pint night before each and every away game, often in the hotel bar.

Magath was fired in September of 2014, just seven months after his hire, with Fulham having suffered an eleven-game winless streak. The Whites were eventually relegated later that season, and have not recovered since, still in the Championship looking for a return to the top flight.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Manchester United

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  • Southampton has 3 clean sheets in 5 PL games this season
  • 8 players have scored for MUFC, the most in the PL
  • Saints have lost to MUFC 24 times, more than any other PL team

Manchester United can equal its club record best start to a Premier League season if they defeat Southampton at St. Mary’s Saturday morning (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

The Red Devils, as they were all of last season, have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, conceding just two goals through five matches, joint-best alongside Manchester City.

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The Southampton defense, however, will be most hyped in this match as Virgil Van Dijk is likely to make his first start for the Saints since January. The Dutchman has been out of action after holding out of preseason and the start of the campaign over transfer rumors, but is back with the club after returning as a substitute last time out.

Southampton has conceded just four goals in five games without their most coveted defender, but they have also scored just four goals on their way to eight points thus far, which leaves them in ninth position.

On the other side, Manchester United will be missing Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo, but otherwise have a clean bill of health as they look to at the least keep stride with their cross-town rivals atop the league table. Jose Mourinho has six away fixtures over the next four weeks across all competitions, and will likely look to rotate the squad at some point during that stretch.

What they’re saying

Mourinho on Southampton: “Southampton to be fair, I played them in my second spell in England, I played them and they had Mauricio [Pochettino], and then [Ronald] Koeman, and then [Claude] Puel and now Mauricio [Pellegrino] – and I don’t see many changes. It’s the kind of club where they are very stable in the way they play, the way they think (about) football, the qualities of their players. It’s a good team to be a manager. Honestly, it’s a very good club to be a manager and I see the match as a very difficult match.”

Pellegrino on Manchester United: “When we play against the biggest team in the world, it allows us to draw some conclusions about how we are. This is for me the nice challenge and we have to strive for this. Playing against Manchester United is one of the most beautiful things. I will live this opportunity, I will live this game, and now we have to try to enjoy this game.”

Prediction

This could be a difficult match for Manchester United. Southampton’s defense is very stout, and the Red Devils could potentially find themselves frustrated should they find themselves goalless through the first 60 minutes. Ultimately, the smartest play here is a close 1-0 win for Manchester United with a late goal, but a similar result in the other direction wouldn’t be the most shocking thing.