Spain Soccer La Liga

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

Leave a comment

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.


  • 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



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

WATCH: Chelsea’s Chalobah nutmegs two Manchester United players in seconds

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Nathaniel Chalobah of Chelsea is closed down by Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the first time since the 2011-12 season, Nathaniel Chalobah is not on loan and getting the chance to show what he can do for Chelsea.

At the very least, the 21-year-old midfielder has given the club a viral video.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby “a final” ]

Chelsea uploaded a video of Chalobah going double nutmeg on Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera.

Given the opposition, it’s gone quite well to the tune of several hundred thousand views inside of four hours.

Watch the ex-Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading, and Napoli man go.

BVB boss Tuchel not worried about Real Madrid links

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 27:  Thomas Tuchel, head coach of Dortmund looks on during team training session for 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than five months have passed since Real Madrid won the Champions League final, yet in Florentino Perez’s mind that’s a lifetime. ()

Real’s president is anything but patient with managers, the latest example being Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian was fired a year after winning the club’s long-desired Decima and losing a whopping 19 of 119 matches in charge.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby “a final” ]

So even though Real Madrid leads La Liga under Zinedine Zidane and won the UCL last season, people are always imagining the future.

Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel’s style of play has captured the imaginations of so many supporters. And with BVB president Hans-Joachim Watzke claiming that Real is tracking the German, the questions are heading for Tuchel.


“It’s dangerous if you are flattered as a coach.You lose focus on the important things. I read it as a rumour before our game in Ingolstadt and so I already said back then that it’s dangerous to admit it and to think about it because it takes on too much importance.”

There’s no reason for Tuchel to have to ask those questions. Perez has called Zidane’s appointment one of his proudest moments, and that was just three days ago. Even in Perez’s world, that’s only a solid month, maybe two. %tags%

“It is a final” — Manchester Derby day finds both City, United craving win

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10:  Images of Pep Guardiola the manager of Manchester City and Jose Mourinho of Manchester United are seen on a scarf ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s bonus Manchester Derby Day thanks to the EFL Cup, and so many eyes will be trained on Old Trafford come 3 p.m. ET.

There’s plenty at stake on the day, as both Manchester United and Manchester City have undergone a run of disappointing play in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Tues’ EFL Cup roundup ]

United was spanked 4-0 by Chelsea on Sunday, bringing their Premier League run to 1W-2D-1L over four games. City’s had it far worse, winless in five with a trio of draws in the mix.

For those considering that this derby could take on any lesser feel, rest assured that longtime rival bosses Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will not be operating at full blast (even with rumors of youth-heavy teams on Wednesday).

Here’s Guardiola, from Sky Sports:

“I think everyone can believe this competition is not the big one but I am going to prepare to win the game.

“For the players who play, we’ll be depending on them to make the best performance possible. It is a final.”

Mourinho seems under special pressure given the losses against Man City and Chelsea in the Premier League, ones in which the genius was clearly outfoxed. He was talking about the PL when he said Tuesday that Man Utd needed wins, but there’s little doubt he’ll want to lose to City at home in any competition.

Get your proverbial and actual popcorn ready.

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

1 Comment

MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”