Spain roundup: After honoring Tito, Barca comes back for huge win

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All across Madrid, shouts of profanity were likely heard on Sunday as Villarreal coughed up a two-goal home lead to Barcelona before Lionel Messi climbed into the catbird seat to keep the Blaugranas in the title race with a 3-2 win.

The match was absolutely bananas, with Villarreal going ahead on goals by Cani and Tragueros before a pair of own goals leveled the match in the 78th minute.

But Barca needed all three points to remain in shouting distance of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. The clock struck 80 with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta standing over a free kick 23 yards out from goal. Here comes the likelihood, right? Not-so-much, as Sergio Asenjo leapt to make an acrobatic save. A corner went to nothing.

And then came Messi, as expected. The Argentine picked up a beautiful headed pass from Cesc Fabregas and was one-on-one with Asenjo. Was it going to go down any other way? His 27th La Liga goal of the season, in 28 matches, made it 3-2 in the 83rd minute.

A Barca foul on the edge of the box came very close to penalty kick territory, but a free kick was awarded that Villarreal could not convert. It remained and ended 3-2.

The game began with a moment of silence for Tito Vilanova, who passed away late last week after a battle with cancer.

Yet it could all be for nought, because Atletico got a goal from Raul Garcia to beat a very game Valencia side on the road, while Cristiano Ronaldo kept Real very much a threat with a brace in a 4-0 thrashing of Osasuna at the Bernabeu.

So it isn’t a two-horse race, and the season’s final match between Atletico and Barca in a few weeks will likely carry significance for all three massive clubs. And with the two Madrid clubs still competing in the UEFA Champions League, surely Barca fans are starting to like their odds just a little bit.

Elsewhere…

  • Elche 1-1 Levante – Richmond Boakye helps get a huge point for the hosts in the race for survival, though three points were the hope until Angel’s equalizer in the 74th.
  • Granada 0-3 Rayo Vallecano — It wasn’t long ago that Vallecano looked destined for relegation, and now they’re dusting off opponents left and right.
  • Getafe 1-0 Malaga — The hosts are momentarily safe, officially sending Betis down thanks to a 7th minute Adrian Colunga goal.
  • Betis 0-1 Real Sociedad — It’s academic for relegated Betis, and Carlos Vela’s 48th minute penalty ensured a home loss.
  • Espanyol 1-2 Almeria — Two late goals lift the visitors hopes for survival, but they are still two points back of safety.
  • Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Sevilla — Another goal from Kevin Gameiro wasn’t enough as Athletic surged into control of the fourth slot.
  • Celta Vigo vs. Valladolid – Monday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 35 28 4 3 75 22 53 15-3-0 13-1-3 88
Barcelona 35 27 3 5 97 30 67 16-0-1 11-3-4 84
Real Madrid 34 26 4 4 98 32 66 15-0-2 11-4-2 82
Athletic 35 19 8 8 62 38 24 13-3-2 6-5-6 65
Sevilla 35 17 8 10 66 50 16 10-3-4 7-5-6 59
Real Sociedad 35 16 9 10 59 51 8 11-3-3 5-6-7 57
Villarreal 35 15 7 13 54 43 11 8-6-4 7-1-9 52
Valencia 35 12 9 14 47 48 -1 9-3-6 3-6-8 45
Rayo Vallecano 35 13 4 18 45 71 -26 8-0-9 5-4-9 43
Levante 35 10 12 13 31 42 -11 5-6-6 5-6-7 42
Espanyol 35 11 8 16 39 46 -7 7-4-7 4-4-9 41
Málaga 35 11 8 16 37 44 -7 7-2-8 4-6-8 41
Celta Vigo 34 11 7 16 40 51 -11 4-7-6 7-0-10 40
Granada 35 11 4 20 30 53 -23 7-1-10 4-3-10 37
Elche 35 8 12 15 28 47 -19 6-7-5 2-5-10 36
Osasuna 35 9 8 18 29 58 -29 5-5-7 4-3-11 35
Getafe 35 9 8 18 30 51 -21 5-6-7 4-2-11 35
Almería 35 9 6 20 38 69 -31 5-5-7 4-1-13 33
Valladolid 33 6 14 13 32 50 -18 5-8-3 1-6-10 32
Betis 35 5 7 23 29 70 -41 4-3-11 1-4-12 22

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap via AP
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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.