Spain roundup: Big Three win, Getafe & Valladolid climb to safety

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Real Madrid may be in real trouble despite the thumping they unleashed on Rayo Vallecano this weekend, as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid show no signs of weakening ahead of a run-in to the end of a thrilling La Liga season.

Meanwhile, the weekend saw a shakeup in the relegation zone, as Getafe has at least temporarily escaped the terrors of the Bottom Three thanks to a surprising road win at Valencia.

After Barca’s heart-pounding win over Real Madrid last weekend officially made La Liga a three-horse race, Real lost its second straight with a Tuesday loss at Seville, while wins from Barca and Atletico propelled them into better paths to the title.

So this weekend provided a big question for Real supporters, and their club responded with a resounding, “Yes, we’re still here,” pounding away at Vallecano to the tune of 5-0. It took just 15 minutes for the Bernabeu to see a goal, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored before Daniel Carvajal and Alvaro Morata contribued a goal and Gareth Bale picked up a brace.

But a 77th minute penalty conversion from Lionel Messi sealed three points for Barca in its derby date at Espanyol, and Atletico overcame a sixth minute tally from Iker Muniain to see a 2-1 win at Bilbao behind goals from Diego Costa and Koke (above).

And so Real has to resort to hope, as it could win the rest of its matches and still be monitoring matches outside their participation right up until the final week’s Atletico/Barca power fixture.

Before you think we only care for the big name squads, how about a hand for Getafe and Valladolid? The other Madrid club fell behind 1-0 early before Lafita, Ciprian Marica and Pedro Leon scored to lift Getafe out of the relegation zone. They are now one point free of a three-way tie for the final two drop zone tickets.

And Valladolid is now surviving via goal differential in that three-way tie after a sixth minute Manucho goal paced them by Almeria in a massive relegation battle. The home team pushed Almeria down into the drop, as Valladolid picked up eight of its 30 points in March including the March 8 upset of Barca.

Elsewhere

  • Celta Vigo 1-0 Sevilla FC — The hosts waited until the 87th minute to break through on a Nolito penalty.
  • Villarreal 1-1 Elche — Jonathan canceled out a penalty from Damian Suarez, but Villarreal failed to take advantage of stumbles from Sociedad and Sevilla.
  • Osasuna 1-1 Real Sociedad— A disappointing draw leaves Sociedad muddled with two clubs in a race for fifth, while Osasuna is now the third team in a three-team tie for two relegation spots. Not the good kind of third.
  • Granada vs. Levante — Monday
  • Real Betis vs. Malaga– Monday

 

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 31 24 4 3 69 22 47 13-3-0 11-1-3 76
Barcelona 31 24 3 4 89 25 64 14-0-1 10-3-3 75
Real Madrid 31 23 4 4 86 32 54 13-0-2 10-4-2 73
Athletic 31 16 8 7 53 34 19 11-3-2 5-5-5 56
Sevilla 31 14 8 9 55 46 9 8-3-4 6-5-5 50
Real Sociedad 31 14 8 9 54 44 10 10-3-2 4-5-7 50
Villarreal 31 14 7 10 51 37 14 7-6-3 7-1-7 49
Espanyol 31 11 7 13 34 36 -2 7-3-6 4-4-7 40
Valencia 31 11 7 13 44 45 -1 8-3-5 3-4-8 40
Levante 30 9 10 11 27 38 -11 5-5-5 4-5-6 37
Celta Vigo 31 10 6 15 34 44 -10 4-6-6 6-0-9 36
Granada 30 10 4 16 28 40 -12 6-1-8 4-3-8 34
Rayo Vallecano 31 10 3 18 34 68 -34 6-0-9 4-3-9 33
Málaga 30 8 8 14 29 38 -9 5-2-8 3-6-6 32
Elche 31 7 11 13 25 42 -17 5-6-5 2-5-8 32
Getafe 31 8 7 16 29 48 -19 4-6-6 4-1-10 31
Valladolid 31 6 12 13 32 50 -18 5-7-3 1-5-10 30
Almería 31 8 6 17 33 58 -25 5-5-5 3-1-12 30
Osasuna 31 8 6 17 26 52 -26 5-3-7 3-3-10 30
Betis 30 5 7 18 26 59 -33 4-3-8 1-4-10 22

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

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U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.

Wenger called ref Dean “not honest,” “a disgrace” to earn ban

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LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused a referee of being “not honest” and called him “a disgrace” in a rant inside the match officials’ changing room that led to a three-match touchline ban for one of English soccer’s most experienced coaches.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

The English Football Association published Tuesday the written reasons behind its decision to ban Wenger for being abusive toward referee Mike Dean after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Dec. 31.

In his match report given to the FA, Dean said Wenger “was pointing aggressively at me saying, ‘You’re not honest’ on numerous occasions.” Dean then said Wenger said “you’ve done this to us many times before, you’re supposed to be professional, you’re a disgrace.”

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

Wenger had been incensed at Calum Chambers being penalized for a handball and West Brom converting the resulting penalty to equalize late in the game.

The FA said “there is simply no justification for this behavior” and considered a stadium ban for Wenger.

Wenger was also fined $54,200 for his conduct.

FA Cup: Leicester, West Ham survive replays to reach 4th round

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Two more Premier League sides reached the fourth round of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Tuesday, winning their respective replays and joining 10 other top-flight clubs already through to the next round…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Kelechi Iheanacho moved to Leicester from Manchester City for $33 million this summer and has, through his first half-season in the East Midlands, failed to live up to that price tag. In nine PL appearances, he is yet to score his first league goal. Tuesday, however, saw the 21-year-old Nigerian international put forth a bit production and performance more befitting a player of his promise and pedigree.

Manager Claude Puel picked a side consisting of first-team regulars and lesser-used squad players for the Foxes FA Cup third-round replay against League One side Fleetwood Town. It was Iheanacho, who started alongside/just behind target man Islam Slimani, who shown brightest with a pair of goals, in the 43rd and 77th minutes, to send Leicester into the fourth round. Iheanacho’s second, the one that put the game away for Leicester, was originally ruled out for offside, but was eventually after consultation of the video-assistant referee.

Leicester will travel to League One side Peterborough in the fourth round, on Sat. Jan. 27.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town

It took far longer than Hammers fans would have liked — or expected — but West Ham, over the course of 120 minutes, survived the Cupset bid of third-division Shrewsbury Town. With eight minutes remaining before Tuesday’s replay went to penalty kicks at the London Stadium, 21-year-old defender Reece Burke fired home from inside the box to break the scoreless deadlock.

West Ham will be away to the winner of the replay between Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic (Wednesday), on Sat. Jan. 27.

Elsewhere in FA Cup replay action

Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Wednesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Chelsea vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Swansea City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 2:45 p.m. ET
Wigan Athletic vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

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Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.