Chile starts strong, earns nervy 3 points with 3-1 win over Australia

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It appeared to be over early, but Australia made things difficult on Chile, who ultimately earned all three points after a 3-1 win over the Socceroos in Cuiaba.

The first half was all Chile on possession, owning 70% of the ball, and they took advantage early.

The Chileans scored twice in two minutes, with Alexis Sanchez striking first in the 12th minute when the Socceroos failed to clear, bringing goalkeeper Maty Ryan out of the net and with the ball pinballing around, Ryan barely got back before Sanchez snuck it through.

It was Jorge Valdivia for their second just two minutes later as he got acres of space at the top of the box, and slammed the ball into the top corner.

Chile took their foot off the gas pedal though, and things settled down for Australia.  Despite holding very little of possession, they found an opportunity and took it 10 minutes from halftime.

Tim Cahill, one of the world’s best headers, pulled one-back for Australia when Ivan Franjic won the ball with an expert tackle on the right edge before sending a perfect ball into the box. It was more than enough for Cahill to do what he does best, and he nodded home powerfully.

source: AP
Australia’s Tim Cahill, as he has been his whole career, was a threat in the air up front.

In the second half Australia looked the more dangerous of the two, as Cahill looked to have a second but was rightly ruled offsides despite heading into the net.

The Aussies again threatened in the 57th minute as a ball flew into the box from the left, and while Cahill – up for the header again – seemed to be pushed, Mark Bresciano snuck in far post and ripped a close-range shot that was well saved by Claudio Bravo.

Chile removed Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal with a half-hour left as he returns from knee surgery, and Chile nearly grabbed a third just a minute later.

Alexis Sanchez slotted through Eduardo Vargas, who couldn’t put a powerful shot on target but still slid the ball towards the line. But Alex Wilkinson came in to clear, and booted the ball off the line just before it trickled over.

Again Australia threatened, again off the head of Cahill but his effort from Jason Davidson went just over the bar with 20 minutes to go.

Both sides looked to counter each other with substitutes, as both Jean Beausejour for Chile and Ryan McGowan for Australia made a positive for their respective countries.

As things wound down, tired legs marked both sides, and Chile put things away in stoppage time for an assured victory.  Beausejour was the man to finish long distance on the rebound after Pinilla’s effort was saved.

It was a valiant effort by the underdogs, but ultimately Australia end up with nothing to show for it, and Spain and the Netherlands still remaining.

The three points for Chile keep them along with the Netherlands, who stormed to a shocking 5-1 victory over the defending champions Spain. However, the Chileans did not come close to the goal differential of the Dutch, something that could be a factor going forward if the other two teams in Group B beat Australia by a wider margin.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS:

Chile – Bravo; Mena, Isla, Medel, Jara; Vidal (Gutierrez 60′), Valdivia (Beausejour 68′), Aranguiz, Diaz; Sanchez, Vargas (Pinilla 88′).

Goals – Sanchez 12′, Valdivia 14′, Beausejour 90+2′

Australia – Ryan; Franjic (McGowan 49′), Spiranovic, Wilkinson, Davidson; Bresciano (Troisi 78′), Milligan, Jedinak, Oar (Halloran 69′), Leckie; Cahill.

Goals – Cahill 35′

Serie A: Napoli, Juve hold serve in 1-point title race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona now 31 games unbeaten | Real Madrid 17 points behind ]

Napoli 1-0 SPAL 2013

The battle for Serie A supremacy isn’t ending anytime soon, as Napoli and Juventus continue to match one another (nine straight wins for each side) in Europe’s only remaining major title race.

On Sunday, they even traded 1-0 victories — Napoli at home to SPAL 2013, with Juve triumphing over Torino in the Turin derby.

Brazilian midfielder Allan bagged the only goal for Napoli after just six minutes, finishing off a mesmerizing, free-flowing move that’s become synonymous with Napoli this season. The video-assisting referee came into play just after the hour mark, when Marek Hamsik headed home to make it 2-0 before the VAR wiped it away for offside.

Napoli’s current nine-game winning streak is the longest in club history.

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Juve’s victory came at something of a cost, though, as star striker Gonzalo Higuain was lost to an ankle injury after just a quarter-hour (the injury occurred after just three minutes), followed by a potentially serious knee injury for Federico Bernardeschi, who replaced Higuain, in second-half stoppage time. Higuain isn’t expected to miss significant time, with the club calling it a twisted ankle.

In between the injuries came Alex Sandro‘s 33rd-minute winner, a tap-in from close range masterfully set up by Bernardeschi. One additional positive for Juve: Sunday also saw Paulo Dybala return after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Argentine star entered as a second-half substitute.

“Paulo played 30 minutes at a good level,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri said. “I’m pleased with his and everyone else’s performance. This is a good result against a well-organized Torino side.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

AC Milan 1-0 Sampdoria
Atalanta 1-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Benevento 3-2 Crotone

VIDEO: Reus scores stunning winner for Dortmund

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BERLIN (AP) Marco Reus scored his first Bundesliga goal of the season to give Borussia Dortmund a 1-0 win at his former team Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.

Reus, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze started for the first time together for Dortmund, and the three Germany teammates were all involved in the 32nd-minute goal.

Goetze played the ball to Schuerrle, who crossed for Reus on the right. Reus looked up and lifted the ball over ‘Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer to score off the underside of the crossbar.

“It was a good goal. I think he wanted to do that,” Sommer said.

Reus, who returned from a serious knee injury last weekend against Hamburger SV, said he wanted to play the ball further to the left “but the important thing is it went in.”

Goalkeeper Roman Buerki was man of the match for producing a string of saves to deny the home side what would have been a deserved equalizer.

Dortmund moved second, 19 points behind Bayern Munich, while ‘Gladbach stayed 10th after its fourth consecutive defeat without scoring.

Dortmund forward Michy Batshuayi failed to score for the first time in four games since his deadline-day switch from Chelsea, though he wasn’t helped by the poor condition of the pitch. Some players lost their footing as the grass gave way.

La Liga: Real Madrid win wild one, now just 17 points behind Barca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Barcelona ties club-record 31-game unbeaten run ]

Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid

So long as they manage to hold off Sevilla for fourth place (Champions League qualification), Real Madrid will quickly move on from their disastrous 2017-18 season, spend a half-billion dollars in the summer and pretend like the 12 preceding months never even happened.

For a brief period on Saturday — nearly 30 minutes including the halftime intermission — that plan appeared fatally flawed and at risk. After going 1-0 up away to Real Betis courtesy of Marco Asensio’s 11th-minute opener, Los Blancos found themselves in big trouble after Aissa Mandi leveled things up in the 33rd minute, followed by a Nacho own goal four minutes later.

Five minutes into the second half, Sergio Ramos drew the visitors level, followed by another from Asensio in the 59th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo made it 4-2 six minutes later, at which point Madrid appeared home free.

Sergio Leon pulled Betis to within one in the 85th minute, but Karim Benzema restored the two-goal lead in the 91st, less than two minutes after replacing Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao

With Barcelona still unbeaten on the La Liga season, the title is all but decided with more than three months still to play. That hasn’t stopped Atleti, though, as Diego Simeone’s side, which has lost just once in the league, continues to pursue Lionel Messi and Co. Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao moved Los Rojiblancos back to within seven points of Barca with a dozen games, and one head-to-head matchup, still to play.

Kevin Gameiro scored what turned out to be the winner in the 67th minute, followed not long after by Diego Costa‘s second league goal of the season (fourth in all competitions) to make it 2-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 3-0 Levante
Espanyol 1-1 Villarreal

VAR provider apologizes for wrong image of offside Man Utd goal

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Whether or not you’re in favor of the use of video-assistant refereeing the world over — and, more specifically, English soccer — one thing on which we can all agree has become abundantly clear: VAR’s maiden voyage has been a chaotic, poorly conducted mess.

[ MORE: Jose Mourinho demands VAR calls be “perfect” ]

Any change to the game’s century-old rules and practices — especially of VAR’s monumental proportions — must be implemented and executed without a hitch. Any issues that had arisen prior to this weekend were minor in significance and import, but that all changed on Saturday, when Manchester United’s Juan Mata had a goal wiped away by VAR (WATCH HERE).

Mata appeared to have timed his run perfectly and been onside before slotting home to put Man United 2-0 ahead of Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round. After consulting the off-site video assistant, the goal was taken off the board. While the slightest bit of Mata’s knee appeared to have been in an offside position, the issue lies in the fact that the images provided to television broadcasters, by VAR provider Hawkeye, displayed a clearly crooked line of demarcation.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

Hawkeye issued a statement on Sunday, acknowledging and apologizing for the faulty image provided to broadcasters, but insisted that a correct version of the image was seen by the refereed:

“A technical error led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawkeye to BT Sport on Saturday. To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologize.”

In the end, by the most stringent interpretation of the law, VAR got the call correct. But that won’t matter one iota in the court of public opinion, as one mistake as simple as a crooked line gives the impression that the entire operation is haphazard and not fit for practice.