Diego Simeone’s gamble with his leading scorer came back to haunt him early on Saturday, forcing the Atlético Madrid coach to burn a substitution nine minutes into his team’s UEFA Champions League final against rival Real Madrid. After passing pre-match fitness tests, Spanish international striker Diego Costa, scorer of 36 all-competition goals this season, was taken off in favor of Adrían Lopez after apparently aggravating his hamstring problem.
Costa suffered the injury last week in Atlético’s Spanish title-clinching draw at Barcelona. A doubt in the lead up to today’s final, Costa underwent horse placenta treatment midweek in an effort to speed his recovery.
When he was named to Simeone’s starting XI for today’s match in Lisbon, the treatment appeared to have paid off. After eight minutes of action, however, Costa jogged off the pitch and into the Atlético locker room, the subject of the earliest European final substitution in 29 years.
The extent of his injury could impact Costa’s odds of making next month’s World Cup. Spain head coach Vicente de Bosque plans to name his country’s final 23-man roster on Sunday. Costa was expected to factor prominently in Spain’s title defense, but the severity of his hamstring problem will determine whether the Atlético striker represents La Roja in his birth nation of Brazil.
Just past the mid-point of the first half, it’s 0-0 in Lisbon.
Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.
Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.
Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.
[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]
Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.
The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.
The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.
Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.
With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.
[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]
Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.
He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.
Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.
A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.
Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.
[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.
“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.
“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.
This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.
Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.
After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.
McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.
Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.
[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]
McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).
“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.
“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”