Brazil sinks Chile on penalties, through to the next round

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It took well over 120 minutes, but we finally know who’s going through to the quarter-finals. And yes, it’s the hosts. Brazil kept Chile to a 1-1 draw throughout the second half and on through to extra time. Then came the penalties. Then came Brazil’s win.

The first half went by so quickly, it was hard to believe only 45 minutes had passed. Chile put their high pressing on display, although they took a more direct approach than in previous matches. Brazil were more content to sit back, but as always, Neymar was constantly ready with a threat. It made for quite a thrilling first half.

It took less than 20 minutes for the first goal to sink into the back of the net. It looked for all the world as though it had gone in off the leg of Chile defender Gonzalo Jara, but David Luiz celebrated with gusto, and the goal was ultimately credited to him. Either way, though, the goal certainly showcased Chile’s main weakness: their inability to defend on set pieces.

Chile found their equalizer through a lovely set-piece routine…from Brazil. Brazil won a throw-in near goal, but managed to surrender possession, leaving the Brazil defense slightly confounded. The ball eventually found its way to Alexis Sánchez, who wasted no time in driving a low shot to the far corner. Júlio César dove, but couldn’t quite reach the ball before it flew into the net.

It looked like Brazil would be back in front early in the second half, when a strike from Hulk flew past Claudio Bravo. However, Howard Webb called the goal back, booking the forward for a handball. Hulk appeared to control the ball with his upper arm, although whether it was deliberate enough to deserve a yellow was debatable.

The play then slowed considerably, although both sides certainly had their chances. Júlio César was forced into action around the 65th minute, after Mauricio Isla pulled back for Charles Aránguiz. The Toronto FC keeper was fast enough to send the ball wide, however.

Brazil came closest with a combination between Hulk and substitute Jô, on for Fred. Hulk sent in a cross, Eugenio Mena stuck out his leg, but couldn’t manage to connect with the ball. Instead Jô gave it a try, and end up putting his shot out of play. Hulk then had his own terrific chance, but his low drive was pushed away by Bravo.

With both sides even at 1-1 after 90 minutes of regulation time, we got treated to an additional 30 minutes, split into two 15 minute halves.

Almost immediately, Webb put himself in the hot seat again, letting a Jô kick on Claudio Bravo – one eerily reminiscent of the unwhistled Nigel de Jong kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso, also overseen by Webb – pass with nary a blink.

But with tired legs winning out, very little else  happened in the extra thirty minutes…until the 120th, that is. That’s when Mauricio Pinilla, on for Vidal, rattled the crossbar, giving the entire nation of Brazil heart attacks.

Then came the penalties. And there went Chile’s chance – with their very first kick. Pinilla sent his kick low, making it rather easy to save. While Willian completely missed his, Alexis Sánchez went low as well, and Júlio César saved again. That paved the way for Brazil to win: Hulk may have had his saved by Bravo, but after Neymar sunk his shot, Gonzalo Jara hit the post, ending the dream for Chile.

LINEUPS

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho (Ramires 73), Oscar (Willian 105); Neymar, Hulk, Fred (Jô 64)

Goals: David Luiz 18′

Chile: Bravo; Silva, Medel (Rojas 108), Jara; Isla, Aranguiz, Diaz, Mena; Vidal (Pinilla 87); Sánchez, Vargas (Gutierrez 57)

Goals: Alexis Sánchez 32′

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”