Brazil slides into World Cup semifinals with 2-1 win over darlings Colombia

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The host nation soared early and locked down late, providing an exciting but nervy 2-1 victory against an in-form Colombian side.

Thiago Silva picked up a goal inside the opening 10 minutes, and David Luiz scored an absolute stunner off a second half free-kick to put Brazil through to the semifinals against Germany.

James Rodriguez stole fans hearts throughout the World Cup, but was silenced for much of the game by a Brazilian midfield doubling as a brick wall.

With Luiz Gustavo suspended on yellow card accumulation, Fernandinho and Paulinho held down the fort in the middle and destroyed plenty of Colombian build-up play.

The final minutes were nervy after Rodriguez converted a penalty, but as Colombia flooded men forward it wasn’t enough to draw level late.

The first real chance fell to the hosts, and they cashed in. Fernandinho released Neymar with a great through ball, and it earned Brazil a corner. Neymar’s ball flew in long to the back post over everyone jumping to connect, but Thiago Silva made a run to the back post, beating  converted an easy tap-in.

Silva wasn’t just a goal-scorer for his country. The captain was an iron-clad defender throughout the match, leading his team at the back with gobs of clearances, blocks, and distribution.

Colombia’s only good chance of the half came in the 11th minute when Juan Cuadrado picked up a loose ball in the box and rifled on goal, but it went just wide of the near post.

source: AP
James Rodriguez stole the hearts of fans around the world, and finished with six goals, scoring in every match.

It was all Brazil from then. Hulk picked up a few first-half chances from a tight angle, but none of them found the target. A shot of his in the 20th minute was saved by David Ospina and the rebound fell to Oscar.  The number-10 blasted on net, but Ospina dove and acrobatically grasped the attempt to end the chance.

The referee’s performance left much to be desired, with a pair of weird moments defining his first half. A group of opposing players got upset with each other, and as the referee went to break up the scuffle, Brazil took the quick kick, but the distracted ref somehow let play continue.

In the 38th minute, a Colombian free kick at the top of the box saw the ref use his temporary spray, but as James Rodriguez looked to take the kick, Neymar came charging out of the wall clearly in violation of the 10-yard rule, but the official again swallowed his whistle.

There were 25 first-half fouls, but not a single yellow card produced.

The second half saw Brazil lock down even harder defensively, but they had a few opportunities, and they grabbed one.

As the fouling continued, the referee continued to swallow not only his whistle but his yellow card as well. He finally produced one in the 64th minute to Thiago Silva for a silly challenge on Ospina as he attempted to complete a drop kick.

Rodriguez puzzlingly earned one as well – for his first foul – for a slide-tackle of Hulk on 68 minutes.  David Luiz took the free kick and produced an absolute goalazo, smashing the ball into the top corner past a diving Ospina for a 2-0 lead.

The goal actually energized the game again, after it had become more of a midfield battle than the attacking affair we saw in the first half.

Colombia poured men forward, and it earned them a penalty with 10 minutes to go. Rodriguez released substitute striker Carlos Bacca, and Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar scythed down the attacker, earning just a yellow card.  Rodriguez took the penalty, and wrong-footed Cesar for the score.

Having pulled one back, the entirety of the final 10 minutes was Colombian attack. Bacca nearly equalized on a header just two minutes after the goal, but it flashed across the face harmlessly.

Brazil has some questions going forward into their semifinal with Germany. Neymar was carried off on a stretcher in the dying minutes after taking a heavy knee into his back, and Thiago Silva is suspended after receiving the second yellow of his tournament.

LINEUPS:

Brazil – Julio Cesar, T. Silva, Luiz, Maicon, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Paulinho (Hernanes 86′), Oscar; Fred, Neymar (Henrique 88′), Hulk (Ramires 83′).

Goals: Silva 7′, Luiz 68′

Colombia – Ospina; Zuñiga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Sanchez, Rodriguez, Cuadrado (Quintero 80′), Guarin, Ibarbo (Ramos 46′); Gutierrez (Bacca 70′).

Goals: Rodriguez (pen) 80′

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.”