Italy Soccer Champions League

Eight-minute spell costs Juventus against Real Madrid, leaves Old Lady drawn, winless in Champions League

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An eight-minute span of the second half sparked by a defender’s mistake nearly cost Juventus on Tuesday, but thanks to a 65th minute equalizer from Fernando Llorente and some help in Copenhagen, the Italian champions still control their knockout round fate. Yet with Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against visiting Real Madrid, Juventus still drop to fourth in their Champions League group, the Old Lady left winless through four group stage matches.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, move six points clear in Group B despite suffering their first blemish of the competition. Thanks to second half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, the Merengues were able to overcome an often oppressive host, salvaging a result the run of play said they had no right to claim.

Juventus were dominant in the opening half, their halftime edges in shots (15-5) and shots on target (6-1) indicative of the game’s flow. A superior effort in midfield had not only pinned Real Madrid in their own end but quickly rebuffed any forays toward Juve’s goal. When Raphael Varane conceded a penalty before half, allowing Arturo Vidal to open the scoring before intermission, the one-goal lead was more justice than fortune.

The second half seemed set to continue Juventus’s control before right back Martín Cácares gave Real Madrid their first spark, his terrible back pass deserving of an assist in Ronaldo’s 52nd minute equalizer.  Trying to hit a ball back to his central defenders from along the right sideline, the Uruguyan passed the ball straight to Karim Benzema, who drew the last two defenders to him before laying off to Ronaldo for Real Madrid’s gifted opener.

Eight minutes later, Gareth Bale was allowed to cut in on his left foot and hammer a shot past a lead-footed Gianluigi Buffon, permitting a decidedly second-best Real Madrid to claim a 2-1 lead.

Juventus snared an equalizer five minutes later, Cáceres’s cross finding Fernando Llorente after the Spaniard beat a right back-rusty Sergio Ramos, but by that time, Real Madrid had their legs. Whereas at one time Juventus looked set to claim vital points in their quest to claim Group B’s second spot, the Old Lady had lost control of the match. They were standing on even footing with Real Madrid when they needed to claim a winning goal.

But that score never came. From a game that was within their grasp, Antonio Conte’s team could only claim one point, leaving them winless through four rounds of the tournament. And, thanks to the result of Denmark (Group B’s other game), Juventus is now in last place, their three points in four games one worse than both Galatasaray and a victorious Copenhagen.

The good news, however: They still control their knockout round fate. Win both of their final group stage matches, and their nine points will see them through. But with a trip to Istanbul on the round’s last day, Juve still find themselves in a precarious position, one they could have avoided without eight terrible minutes on Tuesday.

Goals

Juventus: 42′ Arturo Vidal (p.k.), 65′ Fernando Llorente

Real Madrid: 52′ Cristiano Ronaldo, 60′ Gareth Bale

Lineups

Juventus: Gianuligi Buffon, Martín Cáceres, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Kwadwo Asamoah; Andre Pirlo; Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio; Carlos Tevez (82′ Fabio Qugliarella), Fernando Llorente (88′ Sebastian Giovinco)

Unused Subs: Angelo Ogbonna, Marco Storari, Simone Padoin, Paolo De Deglie, Mauricio Isla

Real Madrid: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Pepe, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso (71′ Aiser Illarramendi), Sami Khedira, Luka Modric; Gareth Bale (75′ Ángel Di María), Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema (81′ Jesé)

Unused Subs: Daniel Carvajal, Diego López, Isco, Álvaro Arbeloa

Goteborg apologizes over crowd trouble at abandoned match

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  IFK Goteborg receives the silver medal after the match between IFK Goteborg and Kalmar FF at Gamla Ullevi on October 31, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden.  (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images
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GOTEBORG, Sweden (AP) Swedish club IFK Goteborg has apologized for crowd trouble that resulted in a league match against Malmo being abandoned after a firework landed next to a visiting player warming up on the sidelines and he responded angrily.

Wednesday’s game was interrupted in the 77th minute, with the score at 0-0, when a firecracker tossed from the crowd exploded next to midfielder Tobias Sana, a former Goteborg player. Jolted by the loud bang, Sana reacted by throwing a corner flag into the stands.

[ WATCH: Sana throws corner flag into Goteborg fans ]

Match officials decided to abandon the match, saying a linesman who was also near the firework when it exploded was shocked by the incident.

Sana, who said he had a headache and ear pain following the incident, apologized for his actions.

“Now that I’ve gotten over the shock, I feel it was the stupidest decision of my life,” Sana said Thursday in statement. “There are many young people who look up to me so I really want to apologize.”

Malmo said that Sana wouldn’t face any sanctions from the club.

In a move suggesting the firework was thrown by home fans, Goteborg posted an apology on its website directed at Malmo, match officials and the spectators. The club could face sanctions from the Swedish football association’s disciplinary committee.

There was another security incident on a chaotic evening in Goteborg. After the match was suspended, a Norwegian hockey player ran onto the field, reportedly as part of a bet with teammates at recently crowned Swedish champion Frolunda.

[ MORE: The latest on MLS in Detroit — 2020? ]

Newspaper Aftonbladet said Mats Rosseli Olsen, who played for Norway at the Sochi Olympics, was charged with a public order offense and could face fines.

Frolunda director Christian Lechtaler told Swedish news agency TT that Olsen’s behavior would have “consequences” but didn’t elaborate.

“Mats is very regretful and doesn’t feel good at all about this,” Lechtaler said.

Swedish football has been marred by crowd problems for years, including fans throwing objects at players and match officials and brawling with each other before or after games. Two years ago, a Djurgarden fan was killed after being attacked by hooligans ahead of an away match against Helsingborg.

Flores on future at Watford: “I need to feel happy”

during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Watford at the Boleyn Ground, April 20, 2016, London, England
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
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On the surface, it sounds crazy: Why trade a manager who led a first-year Premier League club to relatively quick safety in England’s top flight and a FA Cup semifinal?

But Watford is not any club when it comes to their views on managers, having parted ways with Slavisa Jokanovic after the Serbian manager led them to promotion. Oh, and when hired Jokanovic was the Hornets fourth coach in five weeks.

[ EUROPA: Villarreal 1-0 Liverpool | Shakhtar 2-2 Sevilla ]

So current manager Quique Sanchez Flores isn’t safe despite the Hornets’ 12th place status. That probably has a lot to do with Watford’s four points since the start of March, a tough schedule run that included Leicester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham.

So, could he be gone this summer? Flores has a break clause after this season, and Watford may not have a choice even if they want to keep the Spaniard around.

From Sky Sports:

Asked if he wanted to stay, Flores said: “This is not the question for me now.

“I know the kind of people I want to work with. That’s the only thing I can say. In the last four or five years I work from my feelings. I work around people I feel completely protected with.

“These are my feelings. When we finish the season I will check what the conditions are but I need to feel happy.”

Who needs who the most? Flores’ season has been impressive even with the late struggles, but Watford’s managerial merry-go-round happened before the club advanced into the Premier League and they’ve survived despite making a change in the summer. Still, we’d do our best to keep Flores at Vicarage Road.

Ex-soccer star Weah to run again for president of Liberia

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 25: Liberia soccer legend George Weah speaks during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw at the ICC convention centre on November 25, 2007 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Former world footballer of the year George Weah says he will make a second bid to become president of Liberia.

The ex-AC Milan striker announced on Thursday he will stand as a candidate in elections next year, when current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and final term ends.

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Weah, who formed the Congress for Democratic Change party, lost to Sirleaf in the 2005 election.

Declaring his intention to stand again, Weah told supporters he sympathized with the plight of many poor Liberians. He said “there were times I didn’t have school fees. I continued to strive with the hope that one day life will get better.”

Weah was the world footballer of the year in 1995. He is a senator in his West African homeland.

MLS Preview: Timbers, KC, 4 more dealing with double game weeks

Portland Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, second from left, gets a piece of a shot by Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, left, as Timbers midfielder Diego Chara (21) looks on during first-half MLS soccer game action in Toronto, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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Beware the double game week.

That’s something on our minds as we look ahead to the weekend in Major League Soccer. For whatever reason, the league doesn’t seem to ensure that its teams with mid-week matches square off with similarly-rested teams a few days later.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

That’s a distinct advantage for Toronto, L.A., Colorado and Orlando City this weekend, as New York City FC’s Saturday game with Vancouver Whitecaps is the only pairing of teams that battled this Wednesday.

Portland Timbers vs. Toronto FC — 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday

In the span of 7 days, Portland will have played in Oregon, flown across the country to draw New England, and now have to go home to face a Toronto FC team that’s been thriving away from BMO Field (The Reds’ home opener isn’t until next week).

Will Johnson is reunited with his home fans, and may make a record turn from hero to villain. Timbers Army can claim they’ll rise above it, but let’s wait until the first trademark Johnson tackle.

Sporting KC vs. L.A. Galaxy — 8 p.m. ET Sunday

The Galaxy have just poured goals past opponents over its last two matches, 4-1 and 5-2 wins over Houston and Real Salt Lake (the latter had allowed 1 whole goal over its previous 3 matches so, yeah).

KC’s inexplicably poor run since the return of Benny Feilhaber — now 1W-4L-1T since a 3-0 start — now sees the Galaxy come to town. Oh boy.

Montreal Impact vs. Colorado Rapids — 4 p.m. ET Saturday

It’s amazing what adding a 58-times capped freak of nature to go with a two-time Swiss League Golden Boot winner can do for a club. Colorado is flying with Jermaine Jones and Shkelzen Gashi, and doesn’t show any signs of stopping a run of wins that includes Seattle, RBNY and Sporting KC.

Next up, though, is East-leading Montreal. The Impact have fallen on hard times, with just one point in its last two matches.

Elsewhere

Columbus Crew forward Federico Higuain (10) battles for the ball against Seattle Sounders midfielders Osvaldo Alonso (6) and and Marco Pappa (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via AP)
(Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET Friday
Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 4 p.m. ET Saturday
New York City FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 4 p.m. ET Saturday
Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew — 4 p.m. ET Saturday
Chicago Fire vs. DC United — 5 p.m. ET Saturday
New England Revolution vs. Orlando City — 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Real Salt Lake vs.Houston Dynamo — 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday