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

Leave a comment

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

Defoe reveals vegan diet key to comeback

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you want to score goals, be a vegan.

[ MORE: PL teams release tour dates

That’s pretty much the message from Jermain Defoe as the 34-year-old striker rolled back the years on Sunday and scored in England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

The Sunderland striker was recalled to the England squad for the first time since 2013 by Gareth Southgate and Defoe, like he has done all season, looked sharp and in the zone. Despite playing for struggling Sunderland who sit bottom of the Premier League table, Defoe has scored 14 goals in the league.

The only Englishman who has scored more times in the PL this season is Harry Kane.

Via the Guardian, Defoe has revealed the lengths he has gone to, off the pitch, in order to sustain his goalscoring prowess.

“Everyone wants to feel fresh in the game – there’s no better feeling – so I just make sure I’m doing the right things and trying to tick every box: cryotherapy, massage, eating the right things … I’m trying to turn vegan,” Defoe said. “That’s a funny one because, when I go to my mum’s, she’s got every kind of meat you can imagine out on the table.

“I think I’ve managed [to adopt veganism] successfully. My girlfriend suggested I gave it a go. Well, she said to me: ‘You’ve got to do it’ and she’s always showing me documentaries on it. It’s always nice to have someone around you who helps you and drives you on and wants you to do well. I don’t find anything hard to give up, as such, because I know the feeling scoring goals gives me. So, while getting in an ice bath isn’t nice, I just think: ‘You know what? I’m going to do this and be rewarded.’ It’s hard but in another way it’s easy because all I want to do is play well and score goals.”

Defoe is definitely doing the latter as he scored his 20th goal for England to join an elite list and is making the most of his opportunity back in the Three Lions’ setup.

As well as turning vegan, Defoe cut out alcohol many years ago and has also got rid of chocolate as well as limiting caffeine. All of this is obviously working. Defoe has scored 33 goals in 78 PL appearances for Sunderland since arriving in 2015 after many believed his England career was over following his move to Toronto FC for the 2014 Major League Soccer season.

How wrong they were. Southgate has said Defoe could play a part in Russia in two years time of England qualify and he’s still scoring goals in the PL. The chances of that seem pretty decent given Defoe’s incredible dedication to prolonging his career.

His body is a temple and one which keeps scoring goals.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbally abusing official

AP Photo/Eugenio Savio
1 Comment

Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.