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At halftime: France up 1 on Honduras as Benzema scores, Palacios sent off just before break – FOLLOW LIVE

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Story of the half: France was clearly on top the whole first half, but it took them 44 minutes to produce a goal, at great cost to Honduras.

Wilson Palacios shoved Paul Pogba in the back in the box, not only conceding a penalty but also earning himself his second yellow card in the process.

Karim Benzema blasted home the ensuing penalty for the 1-0 lead, and now Honduras has a massive task in front of them.

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Goals:

45′ – Wilson Palacios, physical the entire first half, threw his body into the back of Paul Pogba.  It was a costly foul for Honduras, conceding a penalty just before halftime and seeing himself sent off.  Karim Benzema powerfully charged the ball into the top left on the finish.

Other key moments:

12′ – With France clearly on top early on, they had a pair of free kicks just outside the Honduran box. They botched the first with a weird attempt at a predetermined play, but came close with the second, only foiled by a strong Valladares punch.

15′ – Another dangerous French set piece saw the ball into the box sail just over 3 attacker’s heads, but fell to a wide-open Blaise Matuidi who struck powerfully.  The ball was touched by the fingertips of a diving Valladares and ricocheted onto the crossbar.  By far the closest chance yet.

23′ – France continued to pummel the Honduran third, and Patrice Evra’s cross into the box found the head of Antoine Griezmann, who clattered the ball against the crossbar.

25′ – All France but no goals. Mathieu Valbuena received the ball on the right edge of the box with no defenders in sight but a bad angle, so he cut back for Karim Benzema, who headed just over.

28′ – Double yellow for Paul Pogba and Wilson Palacios as the pair get into a midfield scuffle and trade kicks/steps. Tempers flare. The ref stands and watches before producing the cards.

LINEUPS:

France – Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann.

Goals – Benzema (pen) 45′

Honduras – Valladares; Figueroa, Bernardez, Izaguirre, Beckeles; Palacios, Espinoza, Najar, Garrido; Bengtson, Costly.

Key players:

  • Patrice Evra – A key component in France’s attack, they powered down the left side on multiple occasions, and the former Manchester United defender was right there to deliver.
  • Karim Benzema – Didier Deschamps left Olivier Giroud on the bench in favor of Benzema isolated at the front, and the French striker has had plenty of freedom to move across laterally.  He’s the man they’re looking for to score, but it remains to be seen if Deschamps will keep it that way.
  • Wilson Palacios – Honduras’s main man in the middle of the pitch, the hard-hitting Stoke player has tried to be a physical presence to hold France down, and it’s worked thus far. However, he has to be careful now that he’s been booked in the Pogba incident.

Numbers to know:

70.8% – Amount of possession France has had.
5 – Number of yellow cards handed out in the first half, one being Wilson Palacios’s second.
15 – Number of clearances Honduras has been forced to make, compared to just four by France.
0 – Number of losses France has in the World Cup when leading at the half. They have won 17 and drawn 3.

Questions for the second half:

  • Will Honduras go for the shock equalizer or play for goal differential? Down to 10 men, it remains to be seen if coach Luis Suarez will now look to close up shop and concede defeat as to not concede any more goals, or if he will leave things open to try and pick up a man-down goal.
  • Can France continue pedal to the metal?  If there’s one thing above all else that’s been France’s weakness the last decade of disappointment, it’s mental fortitude.  Up a man and in control of the match, sometimes those situations are the hardest to remain focused. It never hurts to have a good goal differential, and they’ll want to cash in on the mistake by Honduras.

Vincent Kompany forced off just nine minutes into Man City’s UCL semi

MADRID, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Pepe of Real Madrid checks on the injured Vincent Kompany of Manchester City  during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Vincent Kompany managed just nine minutes in Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid before going down with a thigh injury.

The City captain pulled up around midfield and immediately went down, replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Man City ]

Earlier this season in the Champions League, Kompany lasted just six minutes before leaving the pitch with a calf injury against Dynamo Kiev.

At 30-years-old, injuries have been Kompany’s biggest enemy this season, with the Belgian center-back managing just 13 starts in the Premier League.

Anfield nights: Liverpool prepares for second leg vs Villarreal

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Dejan Lovren (L) and Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool arrive for a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final Second Leg match against Villarreal at Melwood Training Ground on May 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images
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Denis Suarez found Adrian Lopez on a streaking counter attack in the last gasps of stoppage time, breaking 90 minutes worth of stern resilience from Liverpool.

What a difference a minute can make.

Villarreal enters the second leg of its UEFA Europa League semifinal against Liverpool with a 1-0 lead and the knowledge that a draw or one-goal scoring loss will put it into the final.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

For their part, the Reds will be amped up by the Anfield faithful on Thursday, and Jurgen Klopp will hope to make amends for a Starting XI and substitution set that left Liverpool fans asking, “Why no Sturridge, boss?

Liverpool won’t be too worried, though, given its Europa record when in need of a comeback. The Reds came back to topple Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals, one of the most enthralling matches in recent memory.

Suffice it to say that Reds don’t want to go down 2-0 again, and expect a bit more of a chess match this go-round. Here’s Dejan Lovren, from LiverpoolFC.com:

“[It will be] maybe even more than 90 minutes, so like I said – we need to be clever enough. We don’t just have 20 minutes to play the game, we have 90 minutes so everything is possible. The fans know and are expecting a massive game, but we will take it smarter than the last time [against Dortmund]. It would be a great season for us if we go to the final and win it.”

Klopp opted to rest several regulars in Sunday’s loss to Swansea, with names like Smith, Stewart, Ojo, Chirivella and Ward on the pitch. Those will likely give way to more established names Mignolet, Lucas and Lallana come Friday.

Villarreal is coming off a 2-0 win over Valencia, and holding onto a shutout streak of more than three matches (including Thursday’s win over Liverpool). They’ll have to do very well to hold Liverpool scoreless, but perhaps a road goal will be all “The Yellow Submarine” needs to advance to the final in Basel.

UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Man City looks to upend Real Madrid in Spain

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Pepe of Real Madrid CF battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid needs a win at home against Manchester City to give the UEFA Champions League its second Madrid Derby final in three years.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Bernabeu and, unlike the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the lineup for Real Madrid.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

Man City has Yaya Toure back in the fold, and Vincent Kompany will captain the unit.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Jese, Isco, Ronaldo. Subs: Casilla, Varane, James, Kovacic, Lucas Vazquez, Danilo, Borja Mayoral.

 Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Kolarov, Delph, Sterling, Bony, Iheanacho.

Reports say Wambach entering the fields of broadcasting, reporting

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  America soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach  attends the 2016 MAKERS Conference Day 2 at the Terrenea Resort on February 2, 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL)
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL
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She’s dipped her toes into the pool during the FIFA elections, and now USWNT soccer legend Abby Wambach may have found her second career.

The all-time leading goal scorer in international competition, Wambach will be branching into the media field.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

The Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson says it’ll be as an analyst and contributor, while Sports Illustrated media mastermind Richard Deitsch expects her to dig a bit deeper into the reporting world.

Many athletes have succeeded in becoming broadcasters, but true reporting is a different animal. This will be an interesting story to follow.

Wambach’s name was in the news earlier this year when she plead guilty for a DUII charge. She retired from the playing field in December.