Celebrating 150 years of soccer, the English FA have enjoyed a landmark year.

Ranking PST’s favorite 150 players in England’s top flight history


The English Football Association recently celebrated what’s been a landmark year for soccer’s oldest governing body when the national team face old foes Germany in a friendly at the home of soccer.

Other events, such as the first-ever soccer game at Buckingham Palace, gala dinners and many other high-profile appearances from legendary players and managers, have stretched throughout the special year as the game the English invented has become the most popular sport in the world.

In 1863 the FA was formed and over the last 150 years so many sensational players have graced the English First Division, and now the Premier League, as fans across the globe have marveled at the talent on display.

To celebrate the English FA’s 150 anniversary, myself and my colleague Mike Prindiville thought it would be great to look back and rank our favorite players that helped shape England’s top flight as it is today. It wasn’t easy, as this list could be extended to 250 and plenty of worth players would’ve been omitted.

Anyway, here it goes, our 150 favorite players in English top flight history is about to be revealed. Do you agree?

Top 20

1. George Best

The loveable playboy who dazzled and delighted us all with his mesmerizing skills sits at the top of our mammoth list, he was an entertainer who always delivered. Best was the darling of Manchester United and Northern Ireland and was the most famous man on the planet in his prime. Two league titles and a European Cup plus 181 goals in 474 games for United say it all. Legend. JPW

2. Sir Bobby Charlton

A United 1-2 at the top and they both played in that remarkable Red Devils team that won the 1968 European Cup at Wembley. Charlton was the symbol of United’s rise from the dark days of the Munich air disaster to champions of Europe. He was a terrific midfielder who possessed a hammer of a shot from distance. Charlton still holds the goalscoring record for United and England. JPW

3. Sir Stanley Matthews

When his name is uttered, old black and white footage of a man dribbling and gliding down the wing spring to mind. Matthews was known as the “Magician” and played until he was 50 years of age. Described as one of the finest crossers of the ball the game has ever seen, his status as the first true great of English soccer remains intact today. Blackpool and Stoke City were the only two teams he played for, as well as representing England. JPW

4. Sir Bobby Moore

Still the only man to captain England to World Cup glory, Moore is revered as the best central defender the Three Lions have ever had. His reading of the game was superb and the effortlessness in which he constantly thwarted opposition forwards was a joy to behold. Famous battles with Brazilian legend Pele live on long in the memory during England’s golden generation. The nation was in mourning following his death at an early age, England’s heroic captain now guards Wembley as his statue sits out front of the home of soccer. West Ham legend, Moore will always be remembered as the man who led England to glory on home soil in 1966. JPW

Ryan Giggs is a legend at United

5. Ryan Giggs

With a little more than a week to go before his 40th birthday, there’s no questioning that Giggs is a Premier League legend. The only player to have ever played and scored in every Premier League season, Giggs has won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and two Champions Leagues. Individually, he’s been named to the Premier League Team of the Year six times, the PFA Team of the Century and the UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team. MP

6. Alan Shearer

Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer and the highest scoring player in the history of the Premier League, Shearer is a god to the Toon Army. He broke Jackie Milburn’s famous goalscoring record and scored 206 times for his hometown club, while also winning a league title with little Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Captained England at both World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, Shearer was the finest striker of his generation. JPW

7. Thierry Henry

Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, Henry’s va-va-voom made him a cult hero in North London and across the globe. He led Arsene Wenger’s revolution with the Gunner from the very start and the young Frenchman turned into one of the greatest strikers the planet has ever seen. Winning a World Cup and European Championship with France and several league championships (including their invincipled season and other domestic honors with Arsenal, Titi will forever by the king of North London. JPW

8. Gary Lineker

England’s second highest goalscorer in history, Lineker’s career was full of poached goals and supreme professionalism as he scored for whatever club he suited up for. Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona all loved his predatory instincts as he scored 281 times in over 500 games during his glittering career. JPW

9. Kenny Dalglish

A fierce competitor and goalscorer for Liverpool, Dalglish netted 199 times in the League and formed a tremendous partnership with Ian Rush. King Kenny was arguably the most successful player-manager the English game has ever known, leading Liverpool to a League and FA Cup double in 1986. Dalglish also endeared himself to Liverpudlians as an inspirational figure following the Hillsborough Disaster. MP

10. Peter Shilton

With 125 appearances, Shilton is England’s most capped player ever. Known for his remarkable agility, Shilton’s career spanned an incredible two decades (he retired at the age of 47) where he won back-to-back European Cups at Nottingham Forest and played in a World Cup semi-final. He will forever be best known, however, as the victim of Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God.” MP

source: Getty Images
England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation

11. Steven Gerrard

Stevie G is Liverpool. The one-club man is one of the best midfielders of all time and remains the only player to have scored in an FA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final and a Champions League Final. Named to the Premier League Team of the Year seven times and the FIFA World XI three times, Gerrard captains the England side for which he has made over 100 appearances. MP

12. Nat Lofthouse

He scored 30 goals in 33 games for England… a sublime goals to game ratio that nobody has ever beaten. Lofthouse was one of the finest forwards England has ever seen as he played for his hometown side Bolton from 1946-60. Was dubbed the “Lion of Vienna” after England beat Austria 3-2 and he scored the winner despite being battered around the pitch. His bravery to stick his head in where it hurt grabbed him many goals, a poacher of epic proportions. JPW

13. David Beckham

A global superstar who has won titles in England, Spain, France and the USA, Becks has done it all. He holds the record for most caps picked up by an outfield player for England (115), his performances on the pitch were always of the highest quality. His crossing ability was phenomenal and his spectacular goals saw him elevate his legendary status further. Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to have him on their side. A true England great. JPW

14. Eric Cantona

Part footballer, part philosopher, part artist, perhaps no man had greater influence on the Premier League than Cantona. Credited by Sir Alex Ferguson as the signing that changed everything for Manchester United, Cantona won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, was part of the Premier League Team of the Year in 1993-94, and was voted the club’s Greatest Ever Player by the magazine Inside United. He’ll forever be known for his kung fu kick of a Crystal Palace supporter but with the bad came so much good, including one of the best goal celebrations of all time – the popped collar stare down. MP

15. Wayne Rooney

When you think of English football it’s impossible not to think of Rooney. The Everton product announced himself to the world with his blistering strike against Arsenal in his first Premier League appearance and he hasn’t looked back since, transferring to Manchester United where he has won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. Individually, Rooney has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times, the Fifa World XI (2011) and was awarded the greatest ever Premier League goal for his bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011. MP

source: Getty Images
Wayne Rooney is poised to become England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer

16. Tony Adams

He’s nicknamed “Mr. Arsenal” for good reason – with 504 total appearances, 255 of which were in the Premier League, no one encompasses the Gunners more than Adams. A fierce defender who had a knack for getting forward and scoring big goals, Adams was named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times and also earned a place in the Team of the Decade (1992/3 – 2001/2) at the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards. MP

17. Kevin Keegan

One of the finest midfielders in English history, Keegan rose from the depths of Scunthorpe United to starring for Liverpool, Southampton, Hamburg and his hometown side Liverpool and won the European player of the year award. For England he was the first name on the team-sheet throughout the 1970’s and Keegan’s delightful perm inspired a generations hairstyles! Magnificent athlete and leader who squeezed out every inch of his talent. JPW

18. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s time in England may have been cut short but it will long live in the memory of fans across the Premier League. Ronaldo remains the most expensive player of all time and made 196 appearances for Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. On an individual level he was named to the Premier League Team of the Year four times and also won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 while at Old Trafford. Arguably the best player in the world, Ronaldo’s time at United will go down as the major turning point in his career. MP

19. John Charles

A world-class center-forward and a world-class center-half, Big John Charles was one of Leeds best ever players. Despite playing half his games in defense, Charles scored 93 goals in 155 League matches before becoming one of the first-ever British players to move abroad, to Juventus in 1957 for a world-record £65,000. The Welshman was adored in Turin where he was affectionately known as King John and would often start up front, score a goal and then move back into defense. MP

20. Paul Gascoigne

Perhaps the best raw talent of any British player on this list, Paul Gascoigne’s career has sadly been overshadowed by his ongoing battles with alcohol. As a player though, few were more unpredictable or inspiring than Gazza, whose performance at the 1990 World Cup was unbelievable and whose goal for England at Euro 96 easily goes down as one of the best ever. MP

The best of the rest…

21. Paul Scholes

22. Dennis Bergkamp

23. Dixie Dean

24. Roy Keane

25. Dennis Law

26. Alan Ball

27. Frank Lampard

28. Bert Trauttman

29. Billy Wright

30. Ian Rush

31. Michael Owen

32. Didier Drogba

33. Gordon Banks

34. Graeme Souness

35. Peter Schmeichel

36. Liam Brady

37. John Terry

38. Bryan Robson

39. Patrick Vieira

40. Ashley Cole

41. Stan Mortensen

42. Robin van Persie

43. Pat Jennings

44. Geoff Hurst

45. Duncan Edwards

46. Johnny Haynes

47. Mark Hughes

48. Cliff Bastin

49. John Barnes

50. Gareth Bale

51. Andy Cole

52. Matthew Le Tissier

53. Luis Suarez

54. Neville Southall

55. Jurgen Klinsmann

56. Trevor Francis

57. Tom Finney

58. Jackie Milburn

59. Ruud van Nistelrooy

60. Marcel Desailly

61. Jimmy Greaves

62. Steve Heighway

63. Patrice Evra

64. Ian Wright

65. Robbie Keane

66. Wilf Mannion

67. Peter Osgood

68. Danny Blanchflower

69. Jim Baxter

70. Petr Cech

71. Gary Speed

72. Steve McManaman

73. Gareth Barry

74. Dave Mackay

75. Gianfranco Zola

76. Ossie Ardiles

77. Joe Mercer

78. Bobby Tambling

79. John Greig

80. Sol Campbell

81. Jimmy Armfield

82. Terry Butcher

83. Pat Rice

84. Teddy Sheringham

85. Paul McGrath

86. Robbie Fowler

87. Malcolm Macdonald

88. Jamie Carragher

89. Johnny Giles

90. Cesc Fabregas

91. Peter Beardsley

92. Dwight Yorke

93. Mark Hateley

94. Dean Saunders

95. Andy Gray

96. Rio Ferdinand

97. Gary Neville

98. Shay Given

99. Carlos Tevez

100. Paul Mariner

101. Juninho

102. Roger Hunt

103. Emmanuel Petit

104. Georgi Kinkladze

105. Les Ferdinand

106. Juninho

107. Harry Gregg

108. Mark Viduka

109. John Aldridge

110. Dennis Mortimer

111. Sergio Aguero

112. Steve Bloomer

113. Billy McNeil

114. Michael Carrick

115. Tommy Taylor

116. Martin Keown

117. Michael Thomas

118. Robert Pires

119. Glenn Hoddle

120. Terry Paine

121. Yaya Toure

122. Alan Gilzean

123. Arjen Robben

124. David James

125. Joe Harvey

126. Ray Wilson

127. Ian Callaghan

128. Kerry Dixon

129. Nemanja Vidic

130. John Robertson

131. David Ginola

132. Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer

133. David Platt

134. Chris Sutton

135. Colin Bell

136. Peter Reid

137. Martin Chivers

138. Vincent Kompany

139. John Toshack

140. Paolo Di Canio

141. Diego Forlan

141. Jermain Defoe

142. Kevin Phillips

143. Jaap Stam

144. Freddie Ljungberg

145. Harry Kewell

146. Stan Collymore

147. Darren Anderton

148. Billy Bonds

149. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

150. Paul Ince

MLS Power Rankings: Going to the playoffs edition

Seattle Sounders' Nicolas Lodeiro (10), Herculez Gomez, center, and Jordan Morris, right, celebrate a goal by Lodeiro in the first half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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As we prepare for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, which kick off Wednesday night, we take one last shot at MLS power rankings, featuring only the 12 times still fighting in the postseason.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Which are the sides most likely to represent the East and the West in MLS Cup 2016? Let’s talk it out…

Eastern Conference

1. New York Red Bulls — Bradley Wright-Phillips scored 24 goals this season, including 14 in RBNY’s last 12 games. Sacha Kljestan finished the season with 19 assists, but should have had 20. Not to bury the lead here, but they haven’t lost a game since July 3 (9 wins, 6 draws). That’s an absurd run capped off with four straight wins to finish the regular season. Throw in the fact they’ll host the decisive second leg in every round up until MLS Cup, and it’s hard to see anyone else coming out of the East..

2a. D.C. United — Outside of Sunday’s finale in which Ben Olsen sat 10 of 11 regular staters — you’re not throwing me off your scent, buddy — DCU have destroyed everything and everyone in their path over the last month (four straight wins, by a combined score of 12-3). The strategy is simple: press high, win the ball, get it wide, get it in the box, Patrick Mullins will finish it. If they don’t win it early, they drop into a defensive shell that’ll frustrate you into a rage-quit.

2b. Toronto FC — Here’s my TFC theory: they’re better off playing in the knockout round, because Sebastian Giovinco, who’s only two games back from a month out with injuries, needs that extra bit of sharpness that’s still missing. Everything around the reigning MVP fell into place pretty well with him absent — the midfield diamond still ticks over best with Will Johnson on the field, and he should be back soon — and Jozy Altidore looks like a man possessed. They’re still TFC, though, and until they’re no longer “oh, that TFC,” it’s hard to totally trust them.

4. New York City FC — Is this team good? They won 54 points from 34 games, so of course they’re good on paper, but only three teams conceded more goals on the season (57). Of course, they outscored everyone (62). That’s rarely been the winning formula in the playoffs, though, and David Villa, for every wonderful thing he’s done his first two seasons in MLS, is still only one man.

5. Montreal Impact — Didier Drogba is still a member of this team, right? While he’s mostly inconsequential outside of the Impact lacking an impact forward off the bench, that’s just a bad omen to ride into the postseason, isn’t it? There’s not much to separate Montreal and Philadelphia other than if the Impact are to win a couple games in the playoffs, I know how they do it: Ignacio Piatti turns on video-game mode and draws 20,000 jaws to the floor.

6. Philadelphia Union — The Union, on the other hand, I have no idea what them winning a game looks like — theoretically or literally. It’s been two months since they’ve done it, they don’t remember what it’s like either. Bless Jim Curtin for trotting out a super-young defensive unit out there all season — they’ll be better for it next year — but they simply ran out of steam down the stretch (14 goals conceded in 7 games without a win).

[ MORE: Decision Day madness in the West | And in the East ]

Western Conference

1a. FC Dallas — I came really, really close — like, thisfreakingclose — to putting the Sounders at 1a, and FCD at 1b. The loss Mauro Diaz (torn achilles) last week and the transfer of Fabian Castillo in August would be season-ending blows to, quite literally, every other team in MLS. Yet, this is an FCD squad that is unbelievably deep, embarrassingly rich with talent all over the field, and motivated and prepared by the smartest coach in the league, Oscar Pareja. Papi will cook up a brand new scheme that’ll transform them into an impossible out in the playoffs, rather than the light-em-up attacking juggernaut they would have otherwise been. He is solely responsible for FCD at 1a.

1b. Seattle Sounders — Since Brian Schmetzer was named the interim head coach on July 26, the Sounders’ record is as follows: 8W, 4D, 2L. I could stop right there, and that’d be a solid enough case, but I’d be ignoring Nicolas Lodeiro, who has resurrected the a team that was truly dead when they quit on Sigi Schmid on July 24. Lodeiro’s numbers: 4 goals, 8 assists in 12 games played (all 1,080 minutes). Also of the utmost importance: the emergence of Cristian Roldan, a willing and able midfield runner who might just extend the career of Osvaldo Alonso by two or three years. You do not want to see this team in the playoffs.

3. Colorado Rapids — Speaking of teams you don’t want to see, purely from a standpoint of “they are annoyingly difficult to play against,” the Pablo Mastroeni’s Rapids conceded 32 goals in 34 games this season. If there’s one team in MLS 2016 that simply will not beat itself, it’s the Rapids. Their ceiling is mostly limited, but their bottom-out floor is higher than perhaps anyone else’s.

4. LA Galaxy — Saying the following goes against everything we’ve witnessed the last decade or so, but the Galaxy are something of a non-starter heading into these playoffs, from a standpoint of “we have absolutely no idea who or what this team is.” Robbie Keane played just 17 games all year (just six since the beginning of August), and it’s pretty undeniably Giovani dos Santos’ team now (14 goals, 12 assists). Gyasi Zardes hasn’t played since Aug. 27, and he may or may not come back to play in the playoffs after breaking his foot. Steven Gerrard has played 118 minutes in the last 10 games. That’s a whole lot of questions, and very few answers.

5. Sporting Kansas City — A shaky defensive team prone to costly mistakes at the most inopportune of times; no real focal point offensively, from a strategic standpoint. They do have a 16-goal-scorer in Dom Dwyer, and a dynamic playmaker (at his best) in Benny Feilhaber, but but the supporting cast has been mostly “meh” all season.

6. Real Salt Lake — The final seven games of the regular season is not a great time for your longest winless run of the campaign. Four losses, three draws in the months of September and October.

Combined rankings

2. FCD
3. Sounders
4. DCU
5. TFC
6. Rapids
8. Galaxy
9. Impact
10. SKC
11. RSL
12. Union

Serie A: Napoli end losing streak; Inter Milan beaten again

CROTONE, ITALY - OCTOBER 23:   Josè Maria Callejon (R) and Dries Mertens of Napoli celebrate the opening goal during the Serie A match between FC Crotone and SSC Napoli at Stadio Comunale Ezio Scida on October 23, 2016 in Crotone, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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ROME (AP) A visit to last-place Crotone was just what Napoli needed to end a three-match losing streak.

Roma also won against a lowly opponent, beating Palermo to reclaim second place from AC Milan.

Inter Milan, meanwhile, lost its third straight Serie A match to increase the pressure on coach Frank de Boer.

Despite losing center forward Manolo Gabbiadini to a red card, 10-man Napoli won 2-1 Sunday to spoil Crotone’s first top-division game in its home stadium.

Jose Callejon scored 17 minutes in and Nikola Maksimovic doubled the lead in the 33rd, shortly after Gabbiadini was sent off.

Aleandro Rosi pulled one back for Crotone in the 89th.

Gabbiadini was on the ground after being fouled by Gian Marco Ferrari and reacted by flicking his boot into the back of Ferrari’s leg.

It was Gabbiadini’s first red card in 153 career Serie A matches.

Ferrari was shown a yellow.

Both of Napoli’s goals were aided by poor defense.

Callejon redirected the ball in by the far post after a cross from Dries Mertens was deflected right toward him. Recently called up to Spain’s national team, Callejon has been involved in a league-best eight goals this season with six goals and two assists.

Maksimovic also scored near the far post, following a corner.

Napoli had lost two straight in Serie A and was also beaten by Besiktas in the Champions League this week.

Napoli is fourth, four points behind Juventus and two behind Roma and Milan, which beat Juve 1-0 on Saturday.

Promoted to the top division for the first time in its 106-year history, Crotone played its first three home matches 600 kilometers (375 miles) away in Pescara while its Ezio Scida stadium was expanded to meet league regulations.

The Calabrian club remained with one point.

“We did well in a situation that could have been very difficult, because Crotone was playing at home for the first time, the pitch wasn’t worthy of a professional match and we were down to 10 men after a half-hour,” Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri said. “I’m happy that the lads will rediscover some confidence.”

Here’s a look at the rest of the action in the Italian league Sunday:

Mohamed Salah scored from a tight angle shortly after the half-hour mark after being set up by Edin Dzeko.

Leandro Paredes made it 2-0 in the 51st with a free kick that surprised Palermo goalkeeper Josip Posavec.

Dzeko added another in the 68th, finishing off a pretty series of passes with a low shot from the edge of the area for his league-best eighth of the season – the same number of goals he scored in his 31 appearances last season.

Robin Quaison pulled one back for Palermo in the 80th but Stephan El Shaarawy quickly restored Roma’s three-goal advantage.

Mauricio Pinilla scored the winner for Atalanta with a penalty two minutes from time.

After Davide Santon was whistled for a foul on Franck Kessie, Pinilla drilled the spot kick into the top left corner, leaving Samir Handanovic no chance even though the Inter goalkeeper guessed the right direction.

Andrea Masiello had put Atalanta in front with an early header and Eder equalized for Inter with a free kick after the break.

While Inter defeated Juventus in September, it’s been a difficult debut campaign in Italy for De Boer, who was hired when Roberto Mancini resigned less than two weeks before the season started.

“The only thing we can do is work hard to get out of this situation,” De Boer said. “I want to see the squad have more courage with the ball. … It’s a tough time for everyone.”

Inter captain Mauro Icardi failed to put a single shot on target after being punished by the club for his comments about the team’s hard-core “ultra” fans in his autobiography.

Atalanta, which extended its unbeaten streak to four matches, moved up to eighth while Inter dropped to 14th.

Torino and Lazio remained level on points, six points behind Juventus, after a draw that was determined with a penalty kick from Torino’s Adem Ljajic in added time.

After Iago Falque put Torino ahead midway through the first half, Ciro Immobile equalized for Lazio against his former club in the 71st with an acrobatic effort.

Substitute Alessandro Murgia scored his first Serie A goal in the 84th for Lazio before Marco Parolo was whistled for a questionable hand ball to set up Ljajic’s spot kick.

Nikola Kalinic scored a hat trick and Federico Bernardeschi added two more goals as Fiorentina won 5-3 at Cagliari.

Sassuolo and Bologna drew 1-1 in an Emilia-Romagna derby, Empoli and Chievo Verona played to a 0-0 draw in which Chievo protested for a goal even though goal-line technology showed that the ball wasn’t fully in; and French forward Cyril scored twice for Udinese in a 3-1 win over visiting Pescara.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

La Liga: Real Madrid win late, stay top; Atleti lose to Sevilla

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23: Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring their second goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 23, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Coach Jorge Sampaoli felt Sevilla needed a big win against a top opponent to establish itself as a true contender in Spain.

He got just that on Sunday as his team defeated previously unbeaten Atletico Madrid 1-0 to stay near the top of the Spanish league.

French midfielder Steven N’Zonzi netted the winner in the 73rd minute at a packed Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium to give the hosts their third straight win.

“It was an important game to consolidate ourselves against a team that looked unbeatable,” Sampaoli said. “We did well against one of the best teams in the world. This victory makes me proud.”

Sevilla, which has won six straight at home, reached 20 points from nine rounds, one point behind Real Madrid, which is top after a 2-1 home win against Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona, which defeated Valencia 3-2 Saturday thanks to an injury-time penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi, is third with 19 points.

“It’s going to be tight like this the entire season,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

There had been some early doubts about Sampaoli as Sevilla lost in the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona and the UEFA Super Cup to Real Madrid. But after the up-and-down start, the Argentine coach has finally been able to put Sevilla on track. As well as contending in Spain, the Andalusian club is also in a good position to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Atletico, which had the lead coming into the weekend, dropped to fifth place, three points behind Madrid.

Diego Simeone’s team played with 10 men from the 77th on Sunday because of a second yellow card shown to midfielder Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion.

Sampaoli made key adjustments at halftime, allowing his team to take control of the game and earn the hard-fought victory under pouring rain in Seville.

N’Zonzi scored the winner on a fast breakaway, speeding past two defenders after receiving a great throughball from striker Luciano Vietto. The Frenchman entered the area and calmly sent a low shot into the far corner as Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak charged from the net.

Real Madrid needed an 83rd-minute winner by substitute Alvaro Morata to earn a hard-fought win against Athletic Bilbao.

Karim Benzema put Madrid ahead just seven minutes into the game at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Sabin Merino equalized in the 27th and held on for most of the match.

Morata, celebrating his 24th birthday, scored from close range less than 10 minutes after replacing Benzema. Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made the initial save but Morata persisted and found the open net off the rebound.

“I feel like a 10-year-old,” Morata said. “We won and we are in the lead, it couldn’t have been better.”

It was Madrid’s second straight win after three consecutive draws in the league.

Madrid and Villarreal are the only unbeaten clubs in the league after nine rounds.

Athletic is sixth on 15 points, six behind Madrid.

French striker Cedric Bakambu scored the winner in second-half injury time for Villarreal, but it was Las Palmas’ Kevin-Prince Boateng who attracted all the attention with a remarkable goal before halftime.

Boateng’s side volley from inside the area came after a mid-air, back-heel pass by Pedro Tana, who flicked the ball across the area for Boateng to shoot firmly into the corner.

Still unbeaten in the league this season, Villarreal has won three of its last four games and is in fourth place with 19 points.

Celta Vigo rebounded from two consecutive losses with a comfortable home win over Deportivo La Coruna behind a pair of goals by striker Iago Aspas.

After a 4-3 loss to Barcelona and a 5-0 defeat against Villarreal, Celta cruised to victory against struggling Deportivo to move to eighth place with 13 points.

The teams were tied 1-1 when Aspas converted a 60th-minute penalty kick. Chilean midfielder Fabian Orellana added to the lead in the 78th and Aspas closed the scoring in the 83rd at the Balaidos Stadium.

Deportivo, which has lost four of its last five games, dropped to 17th in the 20-team standings.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

MLS Decision Day: New York goes 1-2; RBNY kings of the East again

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Bradley Wright-Phillips #99 of New York Red Bulls celebrates a goal against the D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Final scores

Philadelphia Union 0-2 New York Red Bulls
New York City FC 4-1 Columbus Crew SC
Toronto FC 3-2 Chicago Fire
Orlando City SC 4-2 D.C. United
New England Revolution 3-0 Montreal Impact

Final standings

1. New York Red Bulls
2. New York City FC
3. Toronto FC
4. D.C. United
5. Montreal Impact
6. Philadelphia Union

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — All the Decision Day scenarios ]

The moments that mattered

4:33 p.m. ET — Fagundez curls one in, keeps the Revs’ heart beating — It’s going to take a lot more of these from the Revs, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

4:33 p.m. ET — DCU give one up to Molino, still 4th — Ben Olsen’s reserve side got off to a rocky start.

4:41 p.m. ET — Kaka puts ORL 2-0 up against DCU’s reserves — Fortunately for DCU, MTL don’t seem to want to finish 4th either.

4:38 p.m. ET — De Leeuw puts CHI 1-0 up on TOR — Losing to the worst team in the league on the final day of the season with a chance to secure a bye in the knockout round… it would be so TFC.

4:48 p.m. ET — BWP puts RBNY up, seals the Golden Boot — Anything but a loss, and RBNY finish top of the East. Bradley Wright-Phillips is doing what he does.

5:03 p.m. ET — Saborio pulls one back for DCU, still in 4th — ORL gifted DCU a way back into the game.

5:05 p.m. ET — Giovinco brings TFC level, back into the race for 2nd — A little late to the party, but TFC have awoken.

5:05 p.m. ET — Villa puts NYCFC 1-0 up, still stuck in 2nd — NYCFC keeping the pressure on RBNY, and keeping TFC at arm’s length.

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5:28 p.m. ET — Higuita restores ORL’s two-goal lead — Top shelf, far post. DCU not afraid of playing on the road in the knockout round, apparently.

5:34 p.m. ET — Giovinco sets up Morrow for 2-1, a point off 2nd — All TFC need now is a CLB equalizer, and they’d take the second knockout-round bye.

5:36 p.m. ET — Muyl wraps up the top spot for RBNY — That’ll just about do it for RBNY, the undisputed kings of the East.

5:39 p.m. ET — Kamara heads CLB to 1-1; NYCFC drop to 3rd — The best five minutes of TFC’s season? Might just be.

5:43 p.m. ET — Osorio makes it 3-1 for TFC — Nine minutes change the outlook of TFC’s entire season.

5:55 p.m. ET — Harrison puts NYCFC back in front, back in 2nd — TFC can score all the goals they want, but NYCFC only need to win to finish 2nd.

5:57 p.m. ET — Shelton makes it 3-1 NYCFC; safe in 2nd — The worst three minutes of TFC’s season? Might just be.