Spain roundup: Anyone wanna win a title? Barca, Real, Atleti stumble

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Our editor Joe Prince-Wright asked if there was a punishment for winning La Liga, and that question seems even more relevant on Sunday after the big three collected two out of nine points for the second consecutive week.

Barcelona — yes, Barcelona — could not find a goal on the road at Elche. Despite the Blaugranas out-attempting the hosts 20-6, and holding Elche to zero shots on frame, the teams shared the points with a 0-0 score line.

Real Madrid seized that opportunity by… losing at Celta Vigo. Thirty-year-old Charles Dias de Oliveira scored on both sides of halftime as the hosts beat a Real side 2-0 who did not play Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo.

And so there was Atletico Madrid with an opportunity to clinch its first La Liga title since 1996 with a win at home against Malaga. This was a visiting side that had claimed two points from its last five matches against Atleti.

But they couldn’t find the goal after 45 minutes, and Samuel’s goal in the 65th minute had the home side on the ropes. Atletico was down 1-0, but managed an equalizer less than 10 minutes later when Jose Sosa’s cross was nodded home by Toby Alderweireld. It was the first La Liga goal of the season for the 25-year-old Belgian, and it was a big one.

The match ended 1-1, which means a draw next week at Barcelona will suffice for Atleti to win the league, but who’s betting against Barca now? With Atleti and Real still setting up for a UEFA Champions League final on May 24, Barca only has to focus on 90 minutes next weekend to win its fifth La Liga crown in six seasons.

ELSEWHERE

  • Real Betis 4-3 Valladolid — Just when it looked Betis has licked the stamp on its miserable season, the condemned side scored in stoppage time to keep the visitors in relegation danger.
  • Villarreal 4-0 Rayo Vallecano — The ma
  • Levante 2-0 Valencia— Massive ro
  • Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Real Sociedad — Twenty-five total shots but just two goals as the sides share points.
  • Getafe 1-0 Sevilla — There’s no substitute for desparation; Getafe is three points safe after outshooting the No. 5 team in the table 14-4 en route to the win. Sergio Escudero picks up the lone goal in the 70th minute.
  • Espanyol 1-1 Osasuna – This draw coupled with Almeria’s win keeps Osasuna into the final relegation space heading into the final weekend.
  • Granada 0-2 Almeria– The visitors leapt over their No. 17 in the table hosts to join the ranks of the temporarily safe on goals from Verza and Aleix Vidal.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Atlético Madrid 37 28 5 4 76 25 51 15-4-0 13-1-4 89
Barcelona 37 27 5 5 99 32 67 16-1-1 11-4-4 86
Real Madrid 37 26 6 5 101 37 64 15-1-2 11-5-3 84
Athletic 37 20 9 8 66 39 27 13-4-2 7-5-6 69
Sevilla 37 17 9 11 66 51 15 10-4-4 7-5-7 60
Real Sociedad 37 16 11 10 61 53 8 11-4-3 5-7-7 59
Villarreal 37 16 8 13 58 43 15 9-6-4 7-2-9 56
Celta Vigo 37 14 7 16 48 52 -4 6-7-6 8-0-10 49
Levante 37 12 12 13 35 42 -7 7-6-6 5-6-7 48
Valencia 37 12 10 15 49 52 -3 9-3-6 3-7-9 46
Rayo Vallecano 37 13 4 20 45 78 -33 8-0-10 5-4-10 43
Espanyol 37 11 9 17 40 48 -8 7-5-7 4-4-10 42
Málaga 37 11 9 17 38 46 -8 7-2-9 4-7-8 42
Elche 37 9 13 15 29 47 -18 6-8-5 3-5-10 40
Almería 37 11 6 20 43 71 -28 6-5-7 5-1-13 39
Getafe 37 10 9 18 33 53 -20 6-6-7 4-3-11 39
Granada 37 11 5 21 31 56 -25 7-1-11 4-4-10 38
Osasuna 37 9 9 19 30 61 -31 5-5-8 4-4-11 36
Valladolid 37 7 15 15 38 59 -21 6-9-3 1-6-12 36
Betis 37 6 7 24 35 76 -41 5-3-11 1-4-13 25

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
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Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images
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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.