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.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”