Sascha Riether apologizes to Adnan Januzaj for stamp

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One day after Sasha Riether became the first player to be retrospectively charged by and English FA panel for his stamp on Adnan Januzaj, the Fulham defender apologized to his victim.

During the last minute of Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over the Cottagers, Riether ran to the corner where Pajtim Kasami and Januzaj were vying for the ball. The German defender came from behind Januzaj, kicked him in his tailbone and then stamped on the back of his ankle.

The incident sent a number of players into a frenzy, including Januzaj’s teammate Marouane Fellaini, who requested retrospective punishment. “For me it was a red card for the right back,” Fellaini said. “I hope the referee looks at the video later.”

Apparently, referee Lee Probert was listening as Riether will now serve a three-match ban after accepting a charge of violent conduct. On Tuesday, the Fulham defender apologized to Januzaj via Twitter.

He wrote: “I want to say I am sorry to Adnan Januzai. It was very unlike me and I can only say that frustration got the better of me.

“I also want to apologise to my team-mates, fans and everyone at the Club, for the ban incurred following Saturday’s match.

“I will accept the consequences of my actions, and hope to put it behind me when I return.

“I want the fans to know that I will be working hard to stay fit and will be ready to continue fighting for the Club as soon as I am able.SR”

In accordance with this year’s retroactive refereeing pilot project, an FA panel of three former referees – Steve Dunn, Eddie Wolstenholme and Alan Wiley – unanimously agreed that had Probert seen the incident, it would have been a sending off as an act of violent conduct.

Subsequent to the incident Manchester United manager David Moyes compared Januzaj to Lionel Messi for his ability to pop up from tough challenges.

“I think Adnan needs a little bit of protection or we are going to find he’s getting kicked up and down. . . . He gets kicked up and down in training every day and he gets on with it. . . . He only needs to look at Lionel Messi. He’s the best at getting up. We hope Adnan, and I’m not comparing him to Messi – we hope he can react like Messi – but he does need protection.

“It’s not a case of asking for protection. It’s up to the referees to do what’s right. But we will never ask for it.”

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.

Arsenal gets AC Milan in Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.

[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]

Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.

Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.

Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.

Here’s the draw in full.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.