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

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Real Madrid lifted their tenth UEFA Champions League title on Saturday, as they beat Atletico Madrid 4-1 at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

Diego Godin’s header looked to be the difference for so long, as Iker Casillas misjudged a ball into the box in the first half and handed Atleti the lead. However Sergio Ramos equalized deep into second half stoppage time to send the game into extra time, and that is when Real’s star power shone through.

RECAP: Real Madrid win tenth Champions League title after rousing comeback

Carlo Ancelotti delivered the Champions League title at the first time of asking as the Italian manager saw his side get the better of their bitter crosstown rivals.

We learned many things from a tense final in Lisbon, here are three.

The big bucks makes the difference

Heading into extra time, there was only going to be one winner in Lisbon. Real pinned Atletico back just seconds before they were about to celebrate becoming European champions and Atleti’s illustrious neighbors grabbed their second chance with both hands. Their star power made a huge difference late on as the impressive midfield duo of Luke Modric and Angel Di Maria were tireless and ran themselves into the ground for the cause. Those two were terrific and then it was time for Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to both get themselves on the scoresheet. It was a case of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” for both of the global superstars as after several misses Bale popped up to head home and make it 2-1, then Ronaldo scored his 17th and final UCL goal of the season to finish things off in style from the PK spot and hand Real the trophy. If you splash out over $240 million on two players, eventually they will make the difference.

Xabi Alonso’s absence, Khedira’s rustiness

In the 58th minute Sami Khedira was replaced by Isco and the German midfielder was put out of his misery after a UCL final to forget. Khedira has been out for over six months with a serious injury and has only played in two games at the end of the season. It showed. Booked in the first half for a lazy tackle, Khedira was not at his combative best and was poor in possession. He gave the ball away and dwelt on it on multiple occasions and Xabi Alonso’s presence in the center of midfield was badly missed, after he picked up a second yellow card in the semifinal win vs. Bayern Munich which ruled him out of the final. Alonso keeps Real ticking over with short passes in the middle and is their heartbeat. Khedira didn’t do well enough to step in for the Spanish international and the likes of Tiago, Koke and Raul Garcia took full advantage of that. The reason why it was such a struggle for Real to clinch the UCL crown was because Atletico dominated the midfield for large swathes of the final.

Set pieces prove pivotal

Atletico sent in an aerial bombardment that Real couldn’t deal with. The winning goal came from Godin’s header after a corner was half cleared and Khedira failed to jump higher than Godin, then Casillas was caught in no man’s land to see the ball loop over his head and over the line. Atleti had nine corners during the match and every time they looked to test Real with vicious deliveries and men crashing in on Casillas at every opportunity. Then Real got back into the game via set piece, as Modric whipped in a cross from the right which found Sergio Ramos to flick home his header into the far post and crush the dreams of Atletico’s fans, players and coaching staff. In a game where both teams matched up man for man across the pitch, set pieces situations proved pivotal in the outcome as the scores finished level through regulation. Real’s extra class from open play then shone through in the extra 30 minutes and that is why they are champions of Europe.

PHOTOS: Tottenham’s stunning new stadium

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Tottenham Hotspur’s new $1 billion stadium is taking shape and it is looking magnificent.

The plan is for Spurs’ new home at White Hart Lane to be ready for the 2018/19 season, with reports stating that Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will play their first couple of games away from home next season in order to squeeze in a few more weeks for construction.

Spurs’ newΒ  home will seat 62,062 fans and will be the second-largest stadium in the Premier League behind Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

Take a look at the photos below in the spring sunshine in London, with the largest single-tier stand in Europe looking sublime as the roof panels are going on and the stadium is really starting to come to life.


Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso handed three-game ban

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After being named in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year on Wednesday, it has been a mixed few days for Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso as he has received a three-game ban with immediate effect after being found guilty of violent conduct.

Alsono, 27, stamped on Shane Long‘s calf in Chelsea’s 3-2 comeback win at Southampton last time out but referee Mike Dean missed the incident completely.

Since then Alonso has received a retrospective charge from the English FA and although the Spanish left back appealed the decision and the length of the ban, it was upheld and he will now miss Chelsea’s next three games.

Alonso will miss the clash at Burnley on Thursday, the FA Cup semifinal against Southampton on Sunday and the trip to Swansea City on Apr. 28.

Who will come in for Alonso?

Antonio Conte has already stated that Emerson Palmeri, a January arrival from AS Roma, will start at Burnley on Thursday and if the Brazilian full back impresses then it is highly likely he will stand in for Alonso in the big FA Cup semifinal on Sunday against Saints. Other options would be Davide Zappacosta playing as the left wing-back or even Cesar Azpilicueta out there.

As for Saints, they feel hard done by after Dean didn’t spot Alonso’s foul even though he was standing yards away from the incident and looking straight at it. At the time of the incident they led 1-0 going into half time and their manager Mark Hughes believes it would have made a big difference as Alonso’s cross set up Olivier Giroud to make it 2-1 and the Spaniard made a big difference from left back in the incredible 3-2 comeback victory. Still, at least Saints won’t have to play against Alonso on Sunday with revenge in the air…

PHOTOS: Liverpool unveil new 2018/19 kit

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Liverpool have gone for a “pepper red” kit for the 2017/18 season.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game ]

On Thursday the Anfield club released their new jersey for next season with New Balance once again their kit suppliers.

The key features of this new kit is a small collar, with a fresh white and red look throughout.

Check out the images and video below.


VAR decisions at World Cup to be explained on giant screens

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Fans attending World Cup matches in Russia won’t be left wondering about the reasons behind decisions of the video assistant referee.

After the VAR’s decision is made, replays will be shown on giant screens inside the stadiums accompanied by a written explanation.

It’s all part of the VAR information system that FIFA unveiled Wednesday .

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

FIFA will place someone in the VOR (video operations room) who will listen in to the VAR’s decisions and communicate them to both TV commentators and stadium personnel operating the giant screens.

“So we will have graphics on the giant screens, we will have replays after the decision on the giant screens, and we will also inform the fans about the outcome of a VAR incident and review,” said Sebastian Runge, group leader of football innovation at FIFA.

With the VAR making its tournament debut during the June 14-July 15 World Cup, FIFA is holding its final training camp this month for the 99 match officials – 36 referees and 63 assistants – who have been selected to go to Russia.

Thirteen VARs have been pre-selected and are being trained at Italy’s Coverciano complex, and FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina said more VARs and VAR assistants will be chosen from the 99 match officials.

Three of the 13 VARs come from Italy’s Serie A and two from Germany’s Bundesliga – elite competitions that already use video assistants.

The VAR can support the referee in four game-changing situations: goals and offenses leading up to a goal, penalty decisions and offenses leading up to a penalty, direct red card incidents and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, VARs in both Italy and Germany have received vehement criticism for long delays and bungled decisions this season.

On Monday, Mainz was awarded a penalty during halftime against a rival Freiburg side that had already left the pitch for the break – prompting the unusual scene of a team returning from the changing room to defend a penalty.

“Yesterday we had already discussed this incident here and gave match officials and VARs clear indication about what should be done if something similar in FIFA competition – specifically the World Cup – happens,” Collina said without providing further detail.

Collina added that the VAR should not be overused, adding that ideally it would intervene at all in a match.

“The goal of VAR is to avoid major mistakes,” Collina said. “The objective is not to have clear and obvious mistakes committed on the field of play. This is the target, the goal is not to re-referee the match using technology.

“There will continue to be incidents when a final answer will not be given and there will be different opinions,” Collina added.

Among other items involving the VAR:

MOSCOW CONTROL CENTER

FIFA will follow the Bundesliga model of a central control center for the VAR rather than using trucks outside stadiums.

“We will have all of the referees based in Moscow so there won’t be any stress in terms of travel,” Collina said.

For each match, Collina will select one VAR and three assistant VARs.

Training operation rooms presented to media included six monitors for the VARs and two more for technical assistants enabling the VARs to see requested replays.

There could be up to four technical assistants in the room for World Cup matches.

OFFSIDE CAMERAS

FIFA will install two extra cameras at matches to monitor offside decisions.

The cameras will be in addition to the 33 cameras used for broadcasters and they will be installed under stadium roofs.

Broadcasters will not have direct access to the cameras but if they are used by the VAR then broadcasters can show the video.

Runge added that three dimensional technology – considered the ultimate strategy for determining offside – is not ready for real-time access yet.

SWEAT AND STRESS

VARs will not officiate more than one match per day.

“It’s not like watching a match on the sofa sipping coffee,” Collina said.

Collina, who officiated Brazil’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, explained why the VARs will wear track suits similar to referees’ on-pitch attire.

“The reason is at the end they sweat as much as someone on the field, because the tension is very high,” Collina said. “They can’t do two matches per day – it’s too stressful.”

COMMS AND HACKING

The Moscow control center will be connected to match officials via a fiber optic network.

If the network fails, the backup plan includes an old-fashioned land telephone line and a telephone stationed near the fourth referee for emergency use.

“Worst-case scenario includes a backup plan on site. That’s when the IBC is down – no power, no fiber network,” Runge said. “Then we have a plan in place where the fourth official would become the VAR and the fourth official would be replaced by the reserve referee.

“We have a cabin in the broadcast compound from where we send all of the feeds to the IBC anyway. That cabin can be turned into a smaller, light version of the VOR.”

Hacking has also been considered.

“We are aware that there might be something but our IT department put measurements in place that will protect us from that,” Runge said.

POST-MATCH BRIEFINGS

In extraordinary circumstances, FIFA will hold post-match briefings to explain decisions in greater detail.

“If something should happen that we think should properly and accurately be explained – and it doesn’t matter if it’s related to VAR or something different – if it is a matter to explain the background of a decision, as an exception certainly we will do it,” Collina said.

“But it won’t be a post-match press conference for every match, explaining every single decision taken during every single match.”

More AP soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf