Atletico Madrid has first La Liga title since ’96 after holding Barca

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An Alexis Sanchez shot from an improbable angle gave Barcelona a 1-0 34th minute lead over visiting Atletico Madrid, putting Blaugranas 45 minutes of soccer away from its fifth La Liga title in six years.

But their opponents did not back down, as Diego Godin headed home a deadball just after halftime to tie the score and put Atletico Madrid back in the driver’s seat to its first La Liga title since 1996. They did not relinquish the lead.

Sanchez picked up the ball from well inside the 18 and just yards from from the touchline, and to the left of Atleti goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. He wasted no time lashing a hard shot into the upper corner above the keeper’s left arm to put Barca up 1-0.

Atleti had already used two subs, with danger men Diego Costa and Arda Turan leaving after injuries in the first 22 minutes.

Barca weathered a late first half Atleti storm to get itself to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead, but Godin’s 49th-minute header set the stage for a wild second half.

Lionel Messi seemed to have found the go-ahead goal in the 64th minute, but was ruled offsides after the ball popped to him off a scrum in the 18.

Filipe Luis picked up a yellow card for a sliding tackle on Messi just outside the 18, and a free kick came as the clock neared 70. After a solid minute of jostling and arguing over how far away the wall should be, Messi sent the ball directly into it.

Barca’s passing just wasn’t there the rest of the way. They were a fraction off almost all day, and Atletico parked the bus after the interval as if they were masters. The Camp Nou is no longer a house of reigning champions, as Barca is trophy-less.

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

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This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

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Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

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He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.

Griezmann backtracks over ‘insensitive’ blackface tweet

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MADRID (AP) Soccer star Antoine Griezmann has apologized for any offense caused after posting an image of himself on social media in blackface as part of an NBA party costume on Sunday.

Griezmann, who is white, was also wearing a wig and holding a basketball in the photo which had “NBA 69 ALLSTARS” on the jersey.

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The photo on his official Twitter account was accompanied by the message “80’s Party” followed by basketball and laughing emojis.

One response called the photo a “bad idea” with others urging the France forward to delete the tweet.

Griezmann at first reacted to the criticism by tweeting: “Calm down friends, I’m a fan of the Harlem Globetrotters and of this great era… It’s a tribute.”

He later tweeted an apology to those he had offended.

“I recognize that’s it’s insensitive on my part. If I offended some people I’m sorry,” he wrote.

The 26-year-old Griezmann plays for Spanish team Atletico Madrid but has been linked to a move to Barcelona.

Alex Morgan named CONCACAF Female POY, Navas wins Male POY

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CONCACAF awarded some of its finest players and coaches on Sunday night, and two familiar faces took home the evening’s most notable awards.

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U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica and Real Madrid each earned Female and Male Player of the Year honors, after boasting tremendous 2017 seasons.

Morgan who primarily plays for Orlando in the NWSL, was also a member of Lyon, who went on to win the Women’s Champions League this past season.

Navas, on the other hand, played a key role in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League run, as well as Los Blancos’ La Liga title.

For Morgan, the award is her third since CONCACAF began handing out its annual awards in 2013. Meanwhile, Navas has now won Male Player of the Year on two occasions.