Cristiano Ronaldo hints at conspiracy in El Clásico

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Following Barcelona’s 4-3 triumph in last night’s El Clásico, Cristiano Ronaldo hinted that unnamed influencers wanted Real Madrid to lose.

“Real Madrid is the greatest club and there is a lot of envy around it,” Ronaldo said.

“It’s tough because a lot of people did not want us to win and Barcelona to be out of the title race. They probably do not want Real to win this league. It makes me think that you don’t only win matches on the pitch but also with a little bit of help from outside.”

The 29-year-old did not elaborate as to who outside the game was at the root of the systematic bias towards rivals Barcelona. He did, however, hit out at the performance of referee Undiano Mallenco.

“The referee made some incredible decisions but we have to carry on,” said the Portuguese international. “In a Real Madrid-Barcelona game you have to have a referee who is up to the task. I don’t want to use the referee as an excuse but if you analyze the 90 minutes there were a lot of mistakes.”

Mallenco made questionable decisions on both sides of the ball, namely awarding Madrid with a 55th minute penalty when replays showed Dani Alves’ foul on Ronaldo was outside the box, handing Barcelona the same gift ten minutes later when Neymar tumbled hard on Sergio Ramos’ minimal contact (for which the Madrid defender was sent off), and giving the Blaugrana an 83rd minute penalty when Andres Iniesta went down easy after wedging himself between Xabi Alonso and Daniel Carvajal.

While the location of Alves’ foul on Ronaldo was relatively clear cut, the other three decisions remain debatable. What isn’t at issue is the CV of Mallenco, who has refereed at the 2010 World Cup, has vast Champions League and El Clásico experience, and was awarded Spain’s top referee in 2005 and 2007.

“In my opinion he was not up to a match of this stature,” Ronaldo stated. “I looked at him and he was pale, that’s because he was so nervous and he was unable to make the right decisions.”

With the latest installment of El Clásico in the books along and Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 win over Real Betis, the La Liga table has Atletico in 1st place on 70 points, Madrid 2nd with 70 points and Barcelona 3rd on 69 points with nine matches left to play.

Podolski goes out with super goal; Germany tops England

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The highlight of Wednesday’s international friendly docket was Lukas Podolski‘s final match for Germany, and the former Arsenal man did not disappoint his crowd.

But first, Canada plays its first match since unveiling new coach Octavio Zambrano.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Scotland 1-1 Canada

Zambrano saw plenty to like from his new side, as Canada went ahead early with a goal from former Scottish youth Fraser Aird. Toronto-born, the ex-Rangers and current Falkirk man got his first Canadian goal against the team he represented at U-17 and U-19 levels.

Norwich City’s Steven Naismith redirected Tom Cairney‘s shot to make it 1-1 before the break, but Scotland never found its way back into Canada’s net.

Germany 1-0 England

Lukas Podolski scored his 49th international goal in his final cap for Germany, and it was spectacular.

Joe Hart didn’t stand a chance.

The match saw big stops from both ‘keepers, as Hart thwarted Leroy Sane on a second half break after Marc-Andre Ter Stegen defied Dele Alli in the opening 45.

Podolski subbed off in the 84th minute to wild applause, but it must sting slightly to know you finished an illustrious career one goal short of a nice, round 50. We guess he’ll have to rest on his millions and millions of earnings and loads of on-field honors.

Elsewhere
Vietnam 1-1 Chinese Taipei
Philippines 0-0 Malaysia
Cyprus 3-1 Kazakhstan
Yemen 0-1 Palestine
Cambodia 2-3 India

McClean to wear No. 5 in honor of deceased ex-teammate

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James McClean is a colorful personality who doesn’t shy away from strong opinions — he once called Jurgen Klopp “a bit of an idiot” — and the West Brom man is using the big stage of World Cup qualifying to proudly honor a deceased ex-teammate.

McClean has long before friends with Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who shockingly died hours after leading his side to a league win this weekend. Given his age (27), few saw it coming even after McBride admitted to feeling ill after the match.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

McBride and McClean played together at Derry, and the latter was excused from Republic of Ireland training to attend funeral services this week.

He’s still expected to play a role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday, and McClean will don the No. 5 of McBride. Irish defender Richard Keogh usually wears the number and agreed to the change.

NASL side to broadcast all its matches on Twitter

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It’s fair to expect the San Francisco Deltas to be trendsetters in tech given their location and pedigree, and the first-year NASL club is doing just that.

The Deltas announced Wednesday that all of their home matches will be broadcast live on Twitter — in English, Spanish, and Portuguese — making them the first North American pro club to broadcast all of their matches on social media.

[ MORE: Zlatan still bitter with Guardiola ]

Twitter senior executive Josh McFarland had previously named as one of the investors in the Deltas, which makes the announcement even more natural. Other investors include tech execs from around the Silicon Valley.

Zlatan: Guardiola falling out “still drives me”

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Time heals all wounds, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic can still feel the scars from his falling out with Pep Guardiola.

The megawatt personalities saw their relationship deteriorate at Barcelona, with Ibrahimovic loaned to AC Milan one year after scoring 21 goals in 45 matches for Guardiola and the Blaugranas.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs Honduras? ]

Ibrahimovic never played for Barca again, and now has a chance to stare down Man City’s Guardiola in a Manchester Derby which could alter the Top Four fortunes of both sides. And he’s still powered by Pep.

From The Guardian, quoting a Sky Sports Italia interview:

“The problem wasn’t with me, it was with him, and he never came to terms with it. I don’t know what his problem was with me. It is something that drives me, gives me adrenaline and extra motivation. It is normal after what has happened. I’m using it as a positive, not negative.”

United visits City at the Etihad Stadium on April 27, and Ibrahimovic will be extra motivated (if that’s possible for the Swede, who seemingly would be fired up to beat someone in arcade bubble hockey).