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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

Champions League playoff roundup: Man City eases through, Ajax bounced

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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The result was never in doubt for Manchester City after a 6-0 demolition of Steaua Bucharest in the first leg, but the Premier League side made it official as they eased into the group stage with a 0-0 second leg result at the Etihad.

Joe Hart started and played what could be his final match in a City shirt, with Pep Guardiola handing him potentially one last showing in front of the home fans. The fan favorite received a thunderous welcome from the home fans who understood the situation.

Guardiola rested Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, and David Silva but still put forth a strong side, and Fabian Delph‘s 58th minute goal sent Man City home with an easy victory and clean sheet. There was a scary moment when Kelechi Iheanacho appeared to pull up lame with a hamstring injury, and then suddenly passed out on the field, but he came to just before a Bucharest player was about to attempt to resuscitate him. The young striker was brought off in favor of Fernandinho in the 75th minute.

Also through easily is Borussia Monchengladbach, with a 6-1 home win over Young Boys to complete a 9-2 aggregate victory. Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring just nine minutes in with a solid bit of skill, and Raffael continued his solid run of form with a hat-trick to easy the Germans through. Hazard would eventually cap off a hat-trick in the 84th minute as well.

In the surprise of the round, Dutch giants Ajax saw themselves bow out of the Champions League following a 4-1 aggregate defeat to last year’s Russian Premier League runners up FC Rostov. The spot in the group stage was there for the taking after a 1-1 first leg in the Netherlands, but Ajax was hammered on Wednesday 4-1 in Russia. Rostov managed four goals with four different goalscorers, including Ecudorian international Christian Noboa. The visitors, meanwhile, didn’t even manage a shot on target until the 73rd minute.

FC Koln needed a late equalizer to send them through over APOEL Nicosia, as Paraguayan international Federico Santander scored in the 86th minute to level the match at 1-1 and give the visitors a 2-1 aggregate win. Finally, Dinamo Zagreb completed a stunning comeback, scoring twice after the 87th minute to beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 on the day in Austria and 3-2 on aggregate. Junior Fernandes scored in the 87th to level things at 1-1 and requiring extra time. Then Algerian international El Arabi Hilal Soudani bagged the winner in the 97th minute, sending the Croatians through to the group stage.

Coleman explains why he stayed as Wales coach, rejected Hull

ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Chris Coleman of Wales celebrates after the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Wales at the Stadium Bilino Polje in Elbasan on October 10, 2015. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
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CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Chris Coleman says he chose to remain as Wales manager despite interest from Premier League side Hull because he’s in a job that is “close to his heart.”

The Football Association of Wales rejected an approach for Coleman from Hull this month, with the Welshman deciding to stay on rather than resigning.

Coleman, who guided Wales to the European Championship semifinals against the odds, said on Wednesday that “if someone comes and it’s the Premier League, anybody, you kind of look at it sideways. Of course.”

But, Coleman added, managing your country “comes around once, if you’re lucky.”

Coleman has made no secret of his desire to manage in club football in the future, but says “what I’ve got here is something very special and close to my heart.”

FOLLOW LIVE: The UEFA Champions League finds its last five group stage teams

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Who’s going to join Porto, Monaco, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad and Celtic as playoff teams to join the UEFA Champions League group stage?

The biggest names of Wednesday’s slate are cruising after their first legs, with Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach putting five and three goals on the board, respectively.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. roundup ]

Could the match be Joe Hart‘s last for City? The longtime backstop gets the call with the transfer window a week away.

In the other three cases, things are wide open. Rostov plays Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg faces Dinamo Zagreb, and APOEL lines up Copenhagen.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League slateFOLLOW LIVE

Borussia Monchengladbach (3) vs. (1) BSC Young Boys
Rostov (1) vs. (1) Ajax
Red Bull Salzburg (1) vs. (1) Dinamo Zagreb
APOEL (0) vs. (1) Copenhagen
Manchester City (5) vs. Steaua Bucuresti (0)

FOLLOW LIVE – EFL CUP: Four Americans in the 18 for Fulham, Sunderland, Bournemouth

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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The newly-renamed EFL Cup, formerly the League Cup, rolls on Wednesday with four more matches ahead of the evening’s third-round draw.

American attacker Lynden Gooch starts for Sunderland, while Tim Ream starts for Fulham and Luca de la Torre is on the Cottagers’ bench. Emerson Hyndman is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Tuesday’s action saw Premier League sides West Brom and Watford excused from the tournament.

Wednesday’s EFL Cup scheduleFOLLOW LIVE

Accrington Stanley vs. Burnley
Fulham vs. Middlesbrough
Morecambe vs. Bournemouth
Sunderland vs. Shrewsbury Town