Portugal Soccer Champions League Final

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′)

LIVE – Europa League group stage finale: Saints, Man United in crucial deciders

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League Group K match between Southampton FC and FC Internazionale Milano at St Mary's Stadium on November 3, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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This is it, don’t get scared now.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Premier League duo Southampton and Manchester United both go into their final group game of the UEFA Europa League needing to avoid defeat if their going to make the knockout rounds.

For United, their task is simple. Jose Mourinho’s men need just a point from their trip to Ukraine to play Zorya Luhansk to advance to the Round of 32, while a win could see them finish top depending on the result of the Feyenoord vs. Fenerbache game.

As for Southampton, it’s a little bit more complicated.

A win for Claude Puel‘s side at home against Hapoel Be’er Sheva at a sold out St Mary’s would see them safely through to the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the first time in club history. A 0-0 draw would also do the trick but a score draw (1-1, 2-2, 3-3 etc) would send the reigning Israeli champions through instead as they’d have the advantage in head-to-head away goals after the duo drew 0-0 in Israel back in October. Making the knockout rounds of this competition would be a huge deal for Southampton and would keep their cup momentum going after they reached the semifinals of the EFL Cup last week.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]   

Elsewhere there is plenty on the line across the 12 groups, with the standings page in the link above very handy to work out the permutations as the top two teams from each group (first place team is seeded, the second unseeded) advance to the Round of 32 and will be joined by the eight teams who finished third in their respective groups in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Below is the full schedule for Thursday’s game which kick off in three separate time slots, while you can follow live commentary and stats on the games by clicking on the link above.


Full Europa League schedule, Thursday Dec. 8

11 a.m. ET
Konyarspor vs. Gent
Qarabag vs. Fiorentina
Osmanlispor vs. Zurich
Braga vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Villarreal vs. Steaua Bucuresti
PAOK vs. Liberece

1 p.m. ET
Vikrotia Plzen vs. Austria Wien
Apoel Nicosia vs. Olympiacos
Sassuolo vs. Genk
Anderlecht vs. Saint-Etienne
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Rapid Wien vs. Athletic Bilbao
Young Boys vs. Astana
AZ Alkmaar vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Feyenoord vs. Fenerbahce
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dundalk
Mainz vs. Gabala
Astra Giurgiu vs. Roma

3:05 p.m. ET
Panathinaikos vs. Celta Vigo
Standard Liege vs. Ajax
Inter Milan vs. Sparta Prague
Southampton vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva
RB Salzburg vs. Schalke
Nice vs. Krasnodar

Bob Bradley will remain in charge, says Swansea chairman

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With reports circulating in the British press that American coach Bob Bradley could be fired after just seven games in charge of Swansea City, their chairman has publicly backed the former U.S. national team head coach.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

Bradley, 58, has just one win in his opening seven games in charge of the Swans who currently sit bottom of the Premier League table on nine points, three points off safety.

That poor form, coupled with many other issues at the club, has reportedly prompted new American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien (they took over as majority owners in July) to conduct an extensive review of every department at the club.

However, chairman Huw Jenkins has moved to quell rumors about Bradley becoming the second Swansea manager to be fired through the opening 14 games of the season.

“I don’t know where that story came from, but it’s natural in football that everyone wants and needs results. But the last thing we need at this moment of time is a continual change in manager. We need stability first and foremost,” Jenkins told talkSPORT. “Take a team like Fulham, they changed managers three times in the season they tried to stave off relegation and we’re in a similar position now.”

“Perhaps in the summer I could have made a better decision – from pre-season onwards I don’t think things were right, it was too flat at the club. That had a knock-on effect and obviously it’s taken us a while to work through it. But we’re with Bob now to try and turn that corner – that’s what we’re working towards. We look at the January window as a chance to reinforce things. There are players not hitting the form levels they have done in the past and we have to find out why that is and get that right as well.”

So, it seems that sense is prevailing after all.

Jenkins took the blame for Swansea’s poor start to the season in media interviews on Wednesday and now the long-time chairman is backing his manager.

The south Wales businessman was part of a consortium which saved Swansea in 2004 and then led them on an incredible journey up from the fourth-tier to the Premier League, plus winning the League Cup and getting to the group stages of the Europa League. He and other directors have come in for some serious stick from Swansea’s fans for selling their stake to the new American owners and Jenkins is believed to have made just over $10 million from selling 8.2 percent of his 13.2 percent stake in the club.

On the pitch, it’s difficult to blame Bradley for the current situation Swansea finds itself in.

After some woeful moves in the transfer window last summer (Jenkins has admitted they weren’t great with Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew allowed to leave for big profits but their replacements just haven’t been good enough) the American coach needs at least one transfer window to bring in better players and the Swans are only three points off safety with a pivotal stretch of six games to come in the Premier League.

Home games against Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth, plus trips to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace will see the Swans go up against direct relegation rivals between now and Jan. 3.

The next four weeks will be huge not only for Swansea’s future but also for Bradley and ahead of their crunch home game against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) the American coach is eager to cut out defensive mistakes as the Swans have now conceded 19 goals in his seven games in charge.

“When you are a manager it (the pressure) goes with the territory,” Bradley said. “It is work as usual, knowing from the beginning when I got here that it would be a big challenge, and it is. When you see a scoreline like that it is easy to jump on us. We are not going to survive if we keep on conceding goals like this.”

Man United’s Europa League clash in doubt over frozen pitch

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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Manchester United and Jose Mourinho may not play their UEFA Europa League game against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

[ MORE: Ozil, Sanchez leaving Arsenal? ]

Amid freezing conditions in the Ukrainian city of Odessa (Zorya cannot play their games at home due to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine) the pitch underwent an inspection on Thursday and with covers and heaters on the playing surface overnight, there is hope the game should go ahead.

However, Jose Mourinho has already talked about the state of the pitch as not being ideal, while the likes of Daley Blind and Paul Pogba looked far from impressed when they went out for a training session on Wednesday in freezing conditions.

Remember, United only needs a point from the game against Zorya to qualify for the Europa League Round of 32 and Mourinho has selected a strong 19-man squad for the trip. 

A statement from Zorya said the following on Thursday morning, as they remain hopeful of the game going ahead.

“Everything depends on the weather. The pitch is not brilliant at the moment. We are expecting temperatures of two or three degrees and everything should be okay.”

Below was the scene in Odessa yesterday for United’s training session, via Simon Peach of the Press Association.


Yep, the pitch doesn’t look great.

Barcelona invites Chapecoense to play friendly

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - OCTOBER 22: Supporters of Chapecoense cheer their team during the match between Chapecoense and Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda on October 22, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has extended an invitation to host a friendly match against the Brazilian soccer club involved in last week’s plane crash.

Chapecoense was on its way to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, one of South America’s most prestigious club tournaments, when its flight went down in Colombia, killing all but six of the 77 players, officials and journalists on board.

The match would be played in August. The friendly, called the Joan Gamper trophy, is used as Barcelona’s traditional curtain raiser for the new season.

Barcelona says it sent a formal invitation to Chapecoense on Thursday.

Barcelona says it wants to “pay homage to the 71 people who died in the accident as well as their families.”