Spain: Cristiano Ronaldo hurt, Real Betis tempting fate again

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La Liga’s global brand has become as much about the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid as the competition itself, but the competition’s greatest inner-city derby took place on Sunday. That when Sevilla, battling at the edge of the league’s European spots, welcomed Real Betis back to the Sanchez Pizjuan. Whereas the Seville rivals once shared a volatile coexistence, Betis’s 2011 return to the Primera Division saw the derby resume in a less-heated way. On the outside side of a then ever-increasing Spanish duopoly, Sevilla and Real Betis recognized the synergistic virtues of being in the same division.

Yet coming into today’s game, Betis found themselves in last place, a six-match unbeaten run in league leaving last year’s seventh place finishers three points from safety. With the club likely to go through in their Europa League group (sitting first in Group I through four rounds), the Beticos are in danger over-exposing themselves. A team having trouble taking care of business in league will be left waging battles on two fronts into 2014.

The Primera part of that struggle took a turn for the worse two minutes into Sunday’s derby. After José Antonio Reyes played through to Carlos Bacca, the Sevilla attacker’s right-footed strike dug Betis an early hole. While the visitors appeared poised to pull the lead back, outshooting Sevilla 5-2 over the next 40 minutes, Paulao’s foul on Reyes late in the half earned the Brazilian defender a second yellow card. When Stephane Mbia headed home the restart, Betis went into half down two goals, one man.

Second half goals from Vitolo and Vicente Iborra left Betis embarrassed, but a four-goal loss to their arch rivals is now the least of their worries. Fourteen matches into the season, Pepe Mel’s side has two wins and nine points, their -16 goal difference hinting this is more than just a slow start. While the team has the talent to play closer to the level of last year’s team, as has often been the case in Betis’s history, talent isn’t enough. Just over two years into their Primera return, Betis is beginning another fight for their first division survival.

Ronaldo to join Messi on the sidelines?

Gareth Bale scored, as did Karim Benzema, Isco, and Álvaro Morata, but the big news after Real Madrid’s win over a 10-man Almeria was the injury to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star left after 52 minutes with a hamstring injury resulting from a first half challenge.

“It was for precaution,” Ronaldo told the media after the match. “It’s nothing special. I was kicked in the first half and had the muscle a little stiff.”

Though Lionel Messi is out until 2014 with a hamstring injury of his own, it looks like La Liga will be spared the absence of its two biggest stars, even if that doesn’t necessarily mean Ronaldo will return any time soon. With matches against Galatasaray and Valladolid over the next seven days, Real Madrid can afford to exercise caution with their main weapon.

Elsewhere

  • Valladolid 0, Osasuna 1 – An unlikely goal from Oier (in fairness, his second of the season) leaves Valladolid in 17th place, the Spanish defender heading his team to their fourth win of the season.
  • Barcelona 4, Granada 0 – First half penalty conversions from Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fábregas had Barça up two before Granada lost a man, with second half goals from Alexis Sánchez and Pedro finishing the job.
  • Real Sociedad 4, Celta Viga 3 – Mexican not-so-international Carlos Vela scored four times, twice after Andreu Fontás’s second half dismissal. Down 3-1 after 56 minutes, La Real left unexpected winners.
  • Atlético Madrid 7, Getafe 0 – Yet another red card on a weekend that saw seven dismissals allowed Atleti to score five times against 10 men, Diego Costa’s goal grabbing headlines.
  • Levante 0, Villarreal 3 – Playing 80 minutes against 10 men, the Yellow Submarine got two goals from Ikechukwu Uche, allowing them to continue their consolidation of fourth place.
  • Elche 2, Valencia 1 – Cristian Herrera’s 84th minute winner helped the home side end their three-match winless run, allowing them to join Los Che was one of four teams with 17 points.
  • Malaga vs. Athletic Club – Athletic will be looking to pull within one of Villarreal, while Malaga hopes to put more than one point between themselves and the drop.

Follow Live: Mexico looks to hold off Honduras

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Mexico is looking to begin its Gold Cup title defense in earnest as El Tri takes on Honduras at 10:30 p.m. ET in Glendale, AZ in the 2017 Gold Cup quarterfinals.

With Jamaica already through with a 2-1 win over Canada, the winner of this match will take on the Reggae Boyz in the semifinal opposite the United States and Costa Rica.

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Honduras has yet to score a single goal in Gold Cup 2017 competition, but their defensive prowess kept them around to the knockout stage thanks to their forfeit win over French Guyana (technically a 3-0 victory) and a 0-0 draw against Canada.

Mexico, meanwhile, won Group C handily, conceding just once throughout the group stage. However, El Tri has brought a youth squad, and they showed weaknesses in the group stage despite the solid record on paper. They have spread out the scoring among five different goalscorers, but lean on Elias Hernandez for much of the creative duties.

LINEUPS

Mexico: Corona, Pereira, Ayala, Molina, Alvarez, Pineda, E. Hernandez, Pizarro, Gallardo, Sepulveda, Duenas.

Honduras: Lopez, Crisanto, M. Figueroa, H. Figueroa, Alvarado, Acosta, Mejia, Quioto, Lanza, Elis, Sanchez.

Jamaica 2-1 Canada: Reggae Boyz reach 2nd straight Gold Cup semifinals

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Two years after their stunning finals appearance, Jamaica is back into the Gold Cup semifinals after holding off Junior Hoilett and Canada 2-1.

Shaun Francis put Jamaica in front just five minutes into the match, as Darren Mattocks expertly cut back to the far side of the box where Francis was trailing the play, and the Montreal Impact full-back put the Reggae Boyz in front.

There was no more action until past the halftime break. Jamaica doubled its lead thanks to a superb strike by Romario Williams, who leaned back and rifled one off the hands of goalkeeper Milan Borjan and into the top corner.

Darren Mattocks got his second assist of the game on the goal with his little nudge backwards to Williams at the top of the box.

The two-goal cushion wouldn’t last long, however, as the fireworks show continued. Now, it was Canada’s turn to put on a show as Junior Hoilett stunned the crowd with a long-distance curler from even further outside the box than Williams’ just 11 minutes earlier.

That would do it for the scoring, although the show wasn’t completely over. With just 15 minutes left, Hoilett unleashed another would-be stunner, but Andre Blake matched the shot with a spectacular save, getting his fingertips to the shot to keep it out.

Blake was critical down the stretch to squelch any chances Canada had late as they pushed for an equalizer. The Reggae Boyz held on to reach the semifinal, where they will take on either Mexico or Honduras.

Report: Morata sale allows Madrid to pursue Mbappe

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For months rumors have claimed that Real Madrid had been priced out of a move for Kylian Mbappe.

Now, they may have the cash, and a way throught.

After selling Alvaro Morata to Chelsea for $75 million, the club may have the funds – and enough offsetting cashflow to appease Financial Fair Play – to make a serious play for the 18-year-old superstar. In addition, the club has almost completed the slale of Danilo to Manchester City for $35 million, and James Rodriguez to Bayern Munich, although they see little return from that immediately, as the deal is a two-year loan with an obligation to buy at the end.

[ MORE: Man City bid for Mendy rejected ]

According to a Goal.com report, Mbappe is now Madrid’s top transfer target, although it seems there is little chance of prying him away from Monaco this late. According to the same report, Mbappe has been advised by unnamed parties that staying at Monaco gives him the highest likelihood of making the French squad for the 2018 World Cup.

“Mbappe is very good,” said Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. “He’s a very good player and he has shown that all year, but he is not my player. I can’t say anything else.”

PSG is also reportedly in for Mbappe, but it’s understandable that Monaco would be hesitant to sell to a chief league rival.

Follow Live: Jamaica and Canada battle for semifinal spot

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Jamaica and Canada are looking ahead to a possible semifinal spot as they match up at 7:30 p.m. ET in Glendale to mark their beginning of the 2017 Gold Cup knockout round.

Both clubs make up the majority of their rosters from MLS clubs, with Cyle Larin heading the line for Canada and Andre Blake manning the backstop for Jamaica. Nonetheless, it’s Larin’s fellow attacker Alphonso Davies who’s picked up three of Canada’s five goals thus far.

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Both teams are putting heavy importance on this match with each already eliminated from World Cup contention.

Jamaica has only allowed one goal all tournament, shutting out both Mexico and Curacao. The Reggae Boyz made the final last time around, but will find that same result much more difficult this time around.

LINEUPS

Jamaica: Blake, Taylor, Lowe, Lawrence, Powell, Watson, Lambert, Francis, Gordon, Mattocks, Williams.

Canada: Borjan, Vitoria, Jakovic, Davies, Petrasso, Piette, Tiebert, Arfield, Larin, De Jong, Hoilett.