Real Madrid win Champions League, seal tenth title after dramatic comeback

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Real Madrid beat crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 after extra time in a gripping UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon, as Real clinched their tenth European cup after a rousing comeback.

La Decima has finally been secured.

The world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, was the hero as his 110th minute header put Real 2-1 up and then Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo put some gloss on the scoreline late on to give Real the trophy they’ve wanted for over a decade.

Atletico Madrid led in the first half through Diego Godin’s header, following a bad mistake from Real ‘keeper Iker Casillas. That goal looked to be enough to hand Atleti their first-ever UCL title in their 111 year history, but Sergio Ramos popped up with seconds left in regulation to head home and send the match into extra time.

Their latest UCL crown was Real’s first title since 2002 when they beat Bayer Leverkusen in the final in Glasgow, as the final whistle sparked jubilant scenes from the Real fans, players and coaching staff at the Estadio da Luz.

Madrid will, once again, be Real’s as the most decorated club in European Cup history added another title to the trophy cabinet.

MORE: Three things we learned from Real Madrid’s Champions League win

Early on Real started the brighter of the two teams and a marauding run from right back Daniel Carvajal found Karim Benzema but his ball towards Bale was cut out by Atletico ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Costa’s injured hamstring was the big storyline leading up to the game and even though the Spanish international started the match, he walked straight off the pitch and down the tunnel after just nine minutes of the final. It almost looked scripted from Simeone and his staff, as Costa’s final was over and Adrian Lopez replaced him.

Real continued to dominate possession but couldn’t find a way through as the opening stages of the UCL final was extremely tentative. Atletico tried to get things going but after Costa’s early substitution the Spanish champions failed to threaten in the final third apart from sporadic set pieces. Real threatened on the break and Ronaldo hit a dipping free kick on target but Courtois saved well after Angel Di Maria was hacked down by Raul Garcia. Several meaty challenges began to fly in — Sergio Ramos, Sami Khedira and Raul Garcia were all booked in the first half — as the crosstown rivals went at it as half time approached.

source: AP
Casillas was caught out of position and Godin’s header looped over him to make it 1-0.

In the 32nd minute a glorious chance arrived as Tiago inexplicably gave the ball away to Bale and the Welsh wizard carved through the heart of Atletico’s defense but somehow steered his shot wide of the post under intense pressure. Real were getting closer. Then Atleti struck as Godin headed over Casillas, who was floundering in no man’s land after a corner was only half cleared, and Atletico made the most of a goalkeeping blunder from Real’s captain. Uruguayan international Godin scored the crucial goal which won Atletico the La Liga title away at Barcelona just days before and his header gave his side one hand on the UCL trophy heading into half time.

After the interval Real pushed for the equalizer and Ronaldo came close three times in quick succession with a deflected free kick that was tipped over from Courtois, then he saw an effort knocked wide from the resulting corner and then Ronaldo sent another effort off target. Real’s momentum began to build. Up the other end Adrian Lopez struck a volley towards the bottom corner but Real managed to deflect the ball wide as they continued to struggle defending set pieces.

With 30 minutes left Ramos’ ball from the left almost found Ronaldo in the box but the Portuguese forward slightly misjudged his jump and the ball skimmed of his head and wide. The momentum continued to swing in Real’s favor but substitute Isco dragged an effort wide as the clocked ticked down in Lisbon with Atleti 1-0 up.

Real pressed for the equalizer which would send the game into extra time but Bale sent a shot wide, then scuffed another effort into the side-netting and Ronaldo’s acrobatic effort flew over the bar. Atletico defended like lions as the final minutes arrived and Real threw the kitchen sink at their fierce rivals.

Finally Real broke through, as Ramos headed home Luka Modric’s free kick from the right in the 93rd minute to send Real’s fans wild and the game into extra time.

There were plenty of tired legs throughout the extra 30 minutes of play as players from both teams felt the impact of a breathless 90 minutes of action. Modric’s deflected effort in the 108th minute saw Real come close to inching ahead. The crucial moment then arrived in the 110th minute as Bale headed home from close range after Di Maria’s shot was well-saved but the ball popped up perfectly for the Welshman to play the hero. After that Marcelo ran towards goal and smashed in a low effort, then Ronaldo bagged a late penalty to make it 4-1 and hand Real the title.

Real Madrid are European champions.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao (Marcelo, 59′); Khedira (Isco, 59′), Modric, Di Maria; Bale, Benzema (Morata, 79′), Ronaldo.

Goals: Ramos, (93′), Bale (110′), Marcelo (118′), Ronaldo (120′)

Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Filipe Luis (Alderweireld, 83′); Gabi, Tiago, Koke, Raul Garcia (Sosa, 66′); Villa, Diego Costa (Adrian, 9′)

Goal: Godin, (36′)

Aguero left off Argentina starting XI to face Bolivia

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Sao Paolo striker Lucas Pratto will receive a fantastic opportunity on Tuesday when Argentina faces Bolivia in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT travels to Panama in CONCACAF WCQ ]

It just so happens that Pratto’s gain is a major letdown for one of the Premier League’s top strikers. The 28-year-old is tied for second this qualifying campaign for Argentina with two goals.

La Albiceleste have announced their starting lineup ahead of tomorrow’s clash in Bolivia, which features mainstays Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Meanwhile, Aguero — who started in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Chile on Thursday — is the lone change from manager Edgardo Bauza.

The Copa America runners’ up are currently depleted with a combination of injuries and suspensions. Four players will miss Tuesday’s meeting in La Paz due to suspension, including Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas will each miss the match after sustaining respective hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina currently sits third in the CONMEBOL table while Bolivia is in danger of elimination with a loss on Tuesday. La Verde have managed just seven points in the first 13 rounds of World Cup qualifying.

Three keys for USMNT against Panama

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Coming off of Friday night’s dominating effort against Honduras, the U.S. Men’s National Team looks for their second win in five nights when Bruce Arena and co. head to Panama.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT goes for second win in Hex on Tuesday ]

Strong performances from players like Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic have USMNT fans buzzing ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Panama City, but there are several questions that lie ahead for Arena as the U.S. goes for its second win in the Hexagonal.

How does Arena cope with injuries?

The only downside of the team’s 6-0 win over Panama on Friday was the aftereffects if the match. John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Michael Orozco and Jordan Morris are no longer with the USMNT after sustaining injuries/illnesses, leaving Arena shorthanded as the Stars and Stripes head into the Estadio Rommel Fernández.

While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic national team return will provide Arena with some assurances up front, along with the emergence of Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, there are some questions in the midfield and defense for the U.S.

Jermaine Jones is available to return from his one-match suspension and could potentially fill the void left by Sebastian Lletget after his injury on Friday. While, Alejandro Bedoya — who replaced Lletget in the Honduras match — will also be in line for a starting spot.

Defensively is where it gets a bit tricky though, as Arena has to make up for an already-depleted backline. There was no DeAndre Yedlin or Fabian Johnson coming into this round of qualifiers, and John Brooks’ release from camp leaves the defense even thinner. Tim Ream appears to be Arena’s next choice to start at centerback with Brooks unavailable, but will he stick with Omar Gonzalez in the center or slide Geoff Cameron back into the middle?

It seems like the latter choice, especially given Cameron’s experience in the central defense, but that would mean Arena has to slot somebody else into the right back position. Graham Zusi has had slight experience in that role as of late, but it could be a bit of a gamble for Arena in another high-stakes match.

Bradley must control the middle once again

Forget Michael Bradley’s superb goal, which lifted the U.S. lead to 2-0 on Friday, it was the captain’s overall performance that is exactly what should be expected from the center midfielder.

Bradley completions/MLSSoccer

In 90 minutes of play against Los Catrachos, Bradley only missed on six passes while also making several successful tackles and recoveries to limit the Honduras attack.

The loss of Lletget is definitely a significant one for the Americans, given his lively movement going both ways. However, LA Galaxy teammate will likely be in line to replace the vibrant midfielder on Tuesday as he returns from a one-match suspension.

In regards to Bradley though, the U.S. veteran is at his best when he is able to move freely throughout the midfield, but Jones’ inclusion could present more of a burden for the Toronto FC player.

Jones is still a very capable midfielder, but he simply doesn’t have the pace to match that of a Lletget, which leaves Bradley more liable for covering ground defensively in front of the backline.

On top of that, the back four will see more changes on Tuesday after Brooks’ exit from the USMNT, making Bradley’s role all the more critical when facing players like Luis Tejada and Gabriel Torres.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifiers resume Tuesday afternoon ]

Dempsey/Pulisic bond continues to evolve

It couldn’t have gone much better for the pair on Friday night as Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic were directly involved in five of the game’s six goals.

The budding relationship between the two key attackers though is an intriguing one, and will likely determine just how successful this USMNT can be down the road. At 34, Dempsey is certainly on the back end of his career, however, his effort against Honduras shows just how dangerous the Seattle Sounders man can be, even after missing significant time due to a heart problem.

Meanwhile, Pulisic continues to shine in European with giants Dortmund, appearing both in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. The two likely won’t be together on the international scene for long, perhaps only until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the partnership is something to monitor over the next year-plus.

Not only does the duo represent a dangerous one-two punch in the attack but also a changing of the guard. Dempsey has been one of the most talented USMNT players in the nation’s history, and many believe Pulisic has the talent to match or even surpass that of the 55-time goalscorer.

We’ve seen it before when Landon Donovan was phased out of the U.S. squad and Dempsey was essentially handed the reigns of the attack, and this time Pulisic will be doing so with much more time to make an impact. The 18-year-old already has four international goals in 12 appearances, and if he improves on that goalscoring pace the U.S. will be enjoying his presence for many years to come.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.