Italy Soccer Europa League Final

Sevilla 0 Benfica 0 (4-2 pens): Sevilla wins UEFA Europa League title

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After 90 minutes and two extra time periods without a goal, the UEFA Europa League title came down to penalties where Sevilla keeper Beto made two huge saves to hand his side the title.

Despite the scoreless draw it was decent entertainment for the fans at Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, with fierce attacks counter-balanced by fantastic defending, and, in particular brilliant goalkeeping by Beto and Benfica netminder Jan Oblak.

In the end, the night was decided on penalties and it was a two fine saves by Beto in conjunction with goals by Carlos Bacca, Stephane M’Bia, Coke and Kevin Gameiro to hand Sevilla their third title in the competition.

It was a frantic opening to the match with both sides struggling for control after the high pace left both clubs scrambling. The first chance came the way of Benfica in the 14th minute when Nicolas Gaitan swung the ball over to Ezequiel Garay at the back post but his volley was saved by Beto.

Gaitan looked lively early on, popping up in little pockets of space and pestering the Sevilla defense but in the 37th minute it was the Andalucian’s who spurned a good opportunity when Jose Antonio Reyes found Alberto Moreno in the channel. The left-back cut back cleverly and attempted a curling shot but Oblak was up to the task.

Before the halftime whistle blew Benfica charged forward with a flurry of good chances, one by Maxi Pereira and one by Rodrigo, but both were well-saved by the ubiquitous Beto.

Three minutes into the second half and Benfica looked destined to take the lead as Garay floated a lovely pass over to Lima, who had Beto beat but was couldn’t get past the scramble of Sevilla’s Nicolas Pareja. The heat was on and within 60 seconds Rodrigo and Lima each pounced on rebounds but again, the Sevilla defense managed to snuff out the opportunities.

Thirty minutes of back and forth play saw Rodrigo and Reyes exchange half-chances, before Lima’s dipping shot from a left-side cut in was tipped over by Beto. An entertaining 90 minutes concluded when Maxi Pereira’s shot on goal fell invitingly for Garay, who’s acrobatic volley flew over the bar. With the two sides impossible to separate, extra time awaited.

Nine minutes into the first period of extra time and the tireless Lima was at it again, this time unleashing a fierce bouncing shot that Beto did well to get his body behind. Two minutes later and the pendulum swung back in Sevilla’s favor as Ivan Rakitic sprung Carlos Bacca but his shot bent just wide of the far post. In the second stanza tired legs set in and Kevin Gameiro’s half-chance nearly broke the deadlock but instead bulged the side netting before the final whistle blew indicating penalties.

In the first round both sides scored through Lima and Bacca. In the second set, Oscar Cardoza had his pen saved by Beto while Stephane M’Bia powered his shot home to give Sevilla a 2-1 lead. Beto came up big again in the third round when he saved Rodrigo’s effort before Coke doubled the La Liga side’s lead. In the fourth round Luisao kept Benfica’s hopes alive but they were soon dashed but by Gameiro who fired hard to the keeper’s right to give Sevilla their third title in the competition and maintain the impressive a 100% winning record in UEFA finals.

 

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.