Spain Soccer Champions League

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

Leave a comment

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.


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.

Pochettino trolling? “You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team”

Leave a comment

LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur huffed and puffed at White Hart Lane on Sunday but never really got going as they settled for a point at White Hart Lane.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Harry Kane forced Asmir Begovic into two good saves in the first half and Song Hueng-min should’ve scored in the second half with a header but even after after a grueling 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday night for Europa League action which saw them arrive back in England at 6 a.m. local time Friday, manager Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t pleased his team didn’t win to move into the top four.

“No, not really happy. We deserved more than we got, so I was disappointed, but it’s true that I’m proud of the players. For me they’re big heroes,” Pochettino told ProSoccerTalk. “The effort was massive. Chelsea played one of their best games of the season, and when you make the effort we showed and the maturity, you have to be happy with your players but disappointed with one point.”

[ MORE: Mourinho calls benched Costa “privileged” ]

With Spurs now stretching their unbeaten run to 13 games this season — their one and only defeat in 2015-16 came on the opening day of the season, 1-0 at Manchester United — Pochettino was asked if his side, who sit five points off the top, should be pleased that a draw against Chelsea felt like two points dropped.

The Argentine coach then released his inner Jose Mourinho — the pair have a close relationship and before Poch came to coach in England he spoke at length to Mourinho — dishing out a backhanded compliment to the master of the backhanded compliment.

“This is a good thing. We play the champions. It’s good. You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team and Tottenham can win every game we play,” Pochettino said. “It’s very difficult, though. Not easy. We’re the youngest team in the PL and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games. We have to feel happy. It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more. We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard. We’ve only had 14 games in the PL and it’s too early to think about the end of the season.”

Whether or not those comments were lost in translation from a man who is still getting used to English as his second language, Pochettino clearly felt Spurs deserved more than the point they got and it’s apparent from the differing predicaments both teams find themselves in that Spurs have more chance of winning the title and finishing in the top four than Chelsea this season.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Live Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Struggling Swansea City has quite a task with its visit to high-flying Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Swansea has plenty of experience on the bench, and will start Eder and Kyle Bartley.

Daniel Sturridge is again on the bench for Liverpool, while Christian Benteke starts up top for the Reds.



Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Can, Milner, Lallana, Ibe, Firmino, Benteke. Subs: Bogdan, Toure, Henderson, Sturridge, Allen, Origi, Randall.

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Bartley, Williams (c), Taylor, Britton, Ki Sung-Yueng, Sigurdsson, Routledge, Ayew, Éder. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Fernandez, Cork, Grimes, Montero, Gomis.

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. Arsenal (Lineups, Live Stream)

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal and Johan Elmander of Norwich City compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on May 11, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Norwich City faces a third UEFA Champions League side in four matches when Arsenal visits Carrow Road on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Arsenal starts Mathieu Flamini in place of the injured Francis Coquelin, and Olivier Giroud is again up top.

As for the home side, there’s a lot of offense on the bench including Nathan Redmond.



Norwich City: Ruddy; Wisdom, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Howson, Dorrans, O’Neil (c), Brady; Hoolahan; Grabban. Subs: Rudd (GK), Martin, Mbokani, Jerome, Mulumbu, Redmond, Odjidja.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Campbell.

Mourinho on benching Costa: “He is very privileged”

Leave a comment

LONDON — Jose Mourinho defended his decision to leave Diego Costa on the bench on Sunday for Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, calling the Spanish international “privileged” for keeping his spot in the Chelsea lineup this long.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Costa, 27, has scored just four goals in 17 appearances for Chelsea this season and in their midweek win at Maccabi Tel-Aviv he and Mourinho had a clear misunderstanding in the first half which saw words exchanged.

Since then, reports have claimed that Mourinho is trying to bring in a new striker in January and his benching of Costa on Sunday will add further fuel to the fire.

“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench,” Mourinho said. “Everyone else has been: the captain; Ivanovic, Cahill, the vice-captain of England; Fabregas; Pedro; Hazard, player of the season; Oscar; everyone was on the bench. Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches. Today we thought the best strategy was this one. We are happy with the decision and the players. If we had won 1-0, our performance would have been considered tremendous. You will still say it was good.”

Chelsea’s boss was pushed further about Diego’s state of mind as he reportedly failed to put his boots on when warming up and then threw his warm-up bib (see the video above) in the direction of Mourinho.

“Physically he is fine. No problems. He is working well every day. His mood is positive. He’s always a positive guy in the team,” Mourinho said. “I was not expecting to have a player on the bench jumping and singing because he is not playing, unless you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench – Ruben, Kenedy, feel that is one more step. But for a top player, they’re not happy. His behavior was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went. And probably he is eating while waiting for us in the bus.”

“If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem”

Mourinho may not feel like he has a problem right now with Costa because Eden Hazard led the line superbly in a false-nine formation.

With Loic Remy missing due to the birth of his child on Saturday, Mourinho decided to replace Costa with the diminutive Belgian and he dazzled Spurs’ backline with several intelligent runs and had Chelsea’s best two chances as he headed over in the first half and then forced Hugo Lloris into a superb stop in the second half from a controlled volley.

Costa’s benching has been coming, and although he seemed to handle it poorly on the sidelines, it’s clear that he must now shape up or Chelsea will move on without him.

“If Costa watched the game with some attention from the bench he will  know what is needed from him,” Mourinho said, ominously.