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Europa League Roundup: Tottenham disappoints at home; Lyon, Valencia take control

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Tim Sherwood’s week just got a lot worse. After a weekend drubbing by Chelsea and fallout that saw the Tottenham Hotspur manager question his squad’s commitment, Thursday’s Europa League action dealt Sherwood’s team another blow. Losing 3-1 to Benfica at White Hart Lane, Spurs may be down to the last 90 minutes in their European season.

That time will come next week at the Estadio de Luz. Today, England’s fifth place club dug themselves a potentially inescapable hole, giving up three away goals in the teams’ first Round of 16 leg.

Former Bolton loanee Rodrigo opened the scoring in the 29th minute, with veteran defender Luisãõ adding two goals in the second half. Though Cristian Eriksen’s 64th minute score briefly brought Sherwood’s side within two, Luisão’s second six minutes from time restored Benfica’s edge.

The result may represent a blessing for Tottenham, with the likes of Harry Kane and Kyle Naughton brought into the team ahead of a weekend derby with Arsenal. Having Europa League off the schedule could certainly simplify any lingering desire to finish fourth.

Liverpool’s surge up the Premier League standings means that’s a bit of a pipe dream, perhaps explaining why most of Sherwood’s regulars were in the starting XI. Heading into the game, Europa League was the team’s best chance at silverware this season, a goal they could pursue without worrying about a meaningful slip in the Premier League. Odds are, Spurs will be back in Europa against next year.

After Thursday’s game, that hope of silverware may be done. The team will need to score at least three times in Portugal to account for the away goals edge Benfica has built. Having been outscored 7-1 over the last 180 minutes, it’s unclear Tottenham’s capable of doing that.

Elsewhere

  • Ludogorets (Bulgaria)  0, Valencia 3 (Spain) – Los Che were up within five minutes through Antonio Barragán but needed a first half penalty save from Diego Alves to maintain that advantage. Goals from Fede Cartabia and Philippe Senderos against 10 men helped Valencia leave Sofia with a decisive edge.
  • Porto (Portugal) 1, Napoli (Italy) 0 – Jackson Martínez put the Dragons  in front off a second half corner, though Rafa Benítez won’t be too disappointed to get out of Portugal down one.
  • Basel (Switzerland) 0, Salzburg (Austria) 0 – The Swiss champions survive after being outshot 15-8 (8-3, shots on target).
  • Juventus (Italy) 1, Fiorentina (Italy) 1 – Arturo Vial’s third minute opener was pulled back by Mario Gomez, with the German international scoring in a substitute’s role to send the tie back to Florence even.
  • AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) 1, Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia) 0 – A 29th minute penalty converted by U.S. international Aron Johannsson gave last year’s Dutch Cup winners a slight edge before a second leg in Dagestan.
  • Sevilla (Spain) 0, Real Betis (Spain) 2 – La Liga’s last place team pulled off the upset thanks to goals on either side of halftime from Baptistão and substitute Sevilla, giving the Verdiblancos a two-goal edge despite seeing only 30 percent of the ball.
  • Lyon (France) 4, Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 1 – A surprisingly impressive performance from Lyon saw three assists from Steed Malbranque and goals from Gueïda Fofana (two), Alexandre Lacazette, and Arnold Mvuemba give it the day’s highest goal total.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It was mostly the Crew from start to finish, and Ola Kamara’s brace helped ensure Greg Berhalter’s side that the team will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. While the other Kamara — Kei — and his Revolution teammates were largely limited for chances on the evening, the Crew backline did an admirable job to prevent their opposition from testing them. For the Crew, it was the team’s first shutout since the two sides last met on August 20, ironically also a 2-0 victory for Berhalter’s group.

[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]

Three moments that mattered

42′ – Ola smashes one past the Revs on the stroke of halftime — The Crew attack has sputtered a lot in 2016, but Ola Kamara continues to keep the team’s bleak playoff hopes intact.

67′ — Afful’s effort smacks against the post, stays out — The Crew attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Harrison Afful was definitely a bit unlucky that this chance didn’t end up in Brad Knighton’s goal.

84′ — Questionable penalty seals the points — It looked a bit soft to be given, but Kamara makes no mistake with the finish.

 

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ola Kamara

Goalscorers: Ola Kamara (42′, 84)

Watch: Dario Benedetto scores audacious blast for Boca Juniors

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When there’s little support up the field, what should you do?

Just ask, Dario Benedetto.

The Boca Juniors man broke Sunday’s 4-1 win over Quilmes wide open after a quarter hour when Benedetto smashed a 40-yard attempt into the back of the net, leaving the opposing keeper speechless.

The 26-year-old did just about everything right on the day, as Benedetto finished off the match with a hat-trick before halftime.

Serie A roundup: Torino knocks off Roma, Fiorentina-AC Milan finish scoreless

TURIN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Andrea Belotti (L) of Torino and Federico Fazio of Roma compete for the ball during the Serie A match between FC Torino and AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on September 25, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)
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Joe Hart and Torino earned a 3-1 win over Roma on Sunday after two second-half finishes from Iago Falqué separated the hosts from the Giallorossi. Andrea Belotti struck for Torino after just eight minutes to give Siniša Mihajlović’s men the early lead. Meanwhile, Francesco Totti attempted to get Roma back in the match after halftime as the veteran striker converted from the penalty spot with 35 minutes remaining. For Totti, the goal marked his 250th in Serie A with Roma.

[ MORE: Schalke misery continues, Leipzig earns road point ]

Fiorentina drew AC Milan, 0-0, as the latter managed just one shot on target throughout the afternoon. Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into five saves on the day, however, the Viola couldn’t find a way to break through the Milan backline.

Goals from Mattia Destro and Ivan Perisic cancelled out as Bologna picked up a point on the road against Inter Milan. Frank de Boer’s Inter currently sit third in Serie A, trailing only Juventus and Napoli, while holds the seventh spot.

Despite going down to nine men in the second half, Genoa managed a 1-1 draw against Pescara on Sunday afternoon. Giovanni Simeone’s opener gave the hosts the advantage just two minutes after the halftime whistle, however, Rey Manaj tapped in from close range in the 85th minute to secure a point for Pescara.

A pair of finishes from Balde Diao Keita and Senad Lulic helped hand Lazio a 2-0 win over Empoli to propel the Biancocelesti to fifth place in Serie A. The defeat leaves Empoli in the relegation zone through six matches.

Gregoire Defrel lifted Sassuolo past Udinese, 1-0, after knocking home the game’s lone finish in the 34th minute. Udinese fought until the very last minute, nearly finding an equalizer in the 90th minute when Felipe’s header struck the cross bar.