Bundesliga Roundup: Easy victories for Germany’s top three

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There were very few surprises in Germany this weekend, with Bayern Munich, Dortmund, and Leverkusen all coming away with routine wins. Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen did their best to spice things up with an eight goal thriller, but it would’ve possibly been a bit more exciting had three of the goals not come from the spot. Then on Sunday, Gladbach will try to create a little breathing room in their fourth place, fourth Champions League spot with a win over relegation-threatened Freiburg.

Friday

Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg
After a string of four straight wins , Wolfsburg are slipping once more, which is never good when there’s so much competition for Germany’s four Champions League spots. Hamburg took an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu, but Ricardo Rodriguez evened things up with a penalty around the half-hour mark. Both teams did their best to find a winner, but the defenses were up to the challenge and both had to be content with just a point. That’s two draws in a row now for Wolfsburg, leaving them two points behind fourth-placed Gladbach, but Gladbach don’t play until Sunday afternoon.

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Nurnberg
Second placed team meets team second from bottom, and no surprises ensue. Leverkusen took revenge after their 5-0 drubbing at the feet of Manchester United, with Heung-Min Son scoring a brace around a goal from Stefan Kießling. Leverkusen’s third win in a row keeps them three points ahead of Dortmund, but they still remain four back of the mighty Bayern.

Bayern Munich 2-0 Braunschweig 
Yes, it’s Bayern still at the top of the table, although beating bottom-side Braunschweig by a mere two goals doesn’t feel that impressive. Perhaps they were saving themselves for a very important midweek cup date with Augsburg? No matter, Arjen Robben had a brace by the 30th minute, and it was all over for the suffering Lions. They need three points to pull them up to safety, but fortunately, have a less intense schedule prior to the winter break.

Hertha Berlin 0-0 Augsburg
The draw, combined with Schalke’s three points later in the evening, means newly-promoted Hertha have slipped out of Germany’s European spots. Augsburg, meanwhile, have hoisted themselves up to 10th, and have a fairly easy run of Hamburg, Braunschweig and Frankfurt to close out the year.

Hoffenheim 4-4 Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim sure do like high scoring games: they’ve put in 32 this season while conceding 34, which at least makes things fun for neutrals. The visitors got things off to an interesting start by conceding two penalties before fifteen minutes were up, both duly convereted by Hoffenheim captain Sejad Salihović. Then Hoffenheim generously gave one back to Werder Bremen, when Sven Schipplock handled the ball inside the area. Aaron Hunt put in the resulting penalty, with Eljero Elia finally scoring from open play less than a minute later to close out the first half. Hoffenheim came roaring back with goals from Kevin Volland and Kai Herdling early in the second half, but Niels Petersen but the visitors within one before the hour mark. That turned out poorly for Hoffenheim, as substitute Philipp Bargfrede scored in injury time to grab a point for Bremen.

Mainz 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Well, Mainz certainly didn’t make this one easy on themselves. Shortly after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the opener for Dortmund, the hosts earned themselves a penalty, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s equalizer was canceled out by the 78th minute. That’s when Elkin Soto’s handball got him sent off, and sent Robert Lewandoski to the spot. Of course he converted the penalty, but added another for insurance purposes, a penalty given just before the final whistle.

Schalke 04 3-0 Stuttgart
Schalke might be one of the most inconsistent sides in Germany this season, but they had no trouble overpowering mid-table Stuttgart in Saturday’s closing match. Jefferson Farfán scored a brace on either side of the half and, despite a double switch from Stuttgart boss Thomas Schneider, Jermaine Jones put in a third. That’s four unbeaten for Schalke, lifting them into sixth, although they’re still far from where they’d like to be.

Sunday

Hannover – Eintracht Frankfurt
An interesting fact for you: Eintracht have yet to win at home. Hannover have yet to pick up a point on the road. If only this fixture were reversed, we could be spinning in an endless loop of frozen time. Instead, we’ll likely end up with a low scoring draw.

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Freiburg
Freiburg, another team that have yet to win at home, although they’re alright on the road, considering they’re fighting a relegation battle. It matters little, though, since Borussia-Park remains a fortress, with Gladbach having won all six of their home games thus far.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga