Johnson, Nagbe goals allow Portland to take edge out of Seattle

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SEATTLE — It was Portland’s first win in Seattle, but in the context of the rivals’ 180-minute conference semifinal match, the victory only gets them to halftime. But thanks to goals from Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, the Timbers reach intermission with a one-goal lead, with a late goal from Osvaldo Alonso bringing the Sounders within 2-1 ahead of Thursday’s leg in Portland.

The Timbers took the lead in the 15th minute when Johnson headed home a Jack Jewsbury cross from close range, giving Marcus Hahnemann no chance to stop the game’s opening goal. Just after the hour mark, Nagbe doubled Portland’s lead, turning on a ball in the right of the area to make it 2-0. Alonso’s 90th minute volley from near the penalty spot brought Seattle within one, limiting the damage on a night they failed to take advantage of their home leg.

Now Seattle heads to Portland, where they lost 1-0 in their only visit this year. There they will be without forward Lamar Neagle, who picked up his second yellow card of the postseason and will be suspended. They may also miss Zach Scott, the right back leaving in the second half after playing an hour in place of DeAndre Yedlin, who did not dress while hampered with an injured ankle.

Portland opened the scoring in the 15th minute through Johnson, whose run in front of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado allowed the Jamaican international to meet Jack Jewsbury’s cross inside the six-yard box. Though Seattle had controlled play for much of the first hour, a chance created deep along the Timbers’ right would give Portland their first ever lead at CenturyLink.

It was advantage that the visitors would take into halftime. Although the Sounders would earn eight corner kicks and three other restarts in Portland’s defensive third, they were only able to put two shots on Donovan Ricketts. In contrast, despite holding less of the ball, the Timbers were able to test Hahnemann three times, with occasional counter attacks sparked by Diego Chara helping their quality balance Seattle’s quality.

At the start of second half, that balance transferred onto the run of play, with the teams sharing the ball and a lack of chances. By the hour mark, however, the teams had made their first changes, with an injury forcing Scott off in favor of Mauro Rosales (62nd minute). Portland sent on Kalif Alhassan for an ineffective Diego Valeri (63rd).

Four minutes later, Portland’s change paid off, with Alhassan setting up Nagbe in the right of the penalty area for the Timbers’ second goal. On a play that started with Nagbe high on the left of his attacking third, Portland moved the ball through Will Johnson in the middle over to Alhassan on the right, who had space to move toward the penalty area. As he approached the box, Alhassan played a ball in to Nagbe, who, cutting in front Djimi Traoré 10 yards out, turned and blasted his right-footed shot past Hahnemann, giving Portland a 2-0 lead.

In the 90th minute, Osvaldo Alonso brought Seattle back into the tie. Off a long throw from Brad Evans, the Seattle destroyer ran onto a ball flicked toward the penalty spot by Shalrie Joseph, beating Alhassan to a shot that ended up in the back of Ricketts’ net. After a night as was one of Seattle’s few standouts, the 27-year-old midfielder bolstered the Sounders’ hopes ahead of Thursday’s second leg.

At the final whistle, Portland had completed their night of firsts. First win in Seattle. First lead at CenturyLink. TBut in the context of the playoffs, it’s only a one-goal lead. It’s advantage Timbers, but there are still 90 minutes to go.

Goals

Portland: 15′ Ryan Johnson, 67′ Darlington Nagbe

Seattle: 90′ Osvaldo Alonso

Lineups

SEATTLE: Marcus Hahnemann; Zach Scott (63′ Mauro Rosales), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traoré, Leo González (84′ Marc Burch); Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Adam Moffat (77′ Shalrie Joseph); Clint Dempsey; Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle

Unsued Subs: Doug Hendrick, David Estrada, Patrick Ianni, Andy Rose

PORTLAND: Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Futty Danso, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Will Johnson, Diego Chará; Darlingon Nagbe (73′ Ben Zemanski), Diego Valeri (62′ Kalif Alhassan), Rodney Wallace; Ryan Johnson (83′ Jose Valencia)

Unused Subs: Milos Kosic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Sal Zizzo, Frederic Piquionne

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.