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Spanish Super Cup: Late goal allows Atlético to claim first leg draw at Real Madrid

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If the summer losses of striker Diego Costa, fullback Felipe Luis, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had Atlético fans worried about their team’s 2014-15 potential, today’s opening leg of the Supercopa de España served to assuage those doubts. Proving as frustrating and stalwart as they did during last year’s league title-winning campaign, Atleti earned a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu, serving a frustrating reminder to European and Spanish Cup winners Real Madrid in the process.

That reminder played out over the first 45 minutes, where a Merengues side that held 71 percent of the ball failed to muster a shot on goal. Though the home side would finally test Migueal Ángel Moyá in the 47th minute, they wouldn’t break through until the 81st, when chaos in front of goal allowed James Rodríguez to score from nine yards out.

Instead of sitting on their 1-0 deficit, Atlético responded. In the 88th minute, off a corner from the left from Koke, Raúl García converted from inside Iker Casillas’s six-yard box, flicking home an equalizer that gave Atleti a crucial away goal.

It was a reversal of last year’s Super Cup, where a first leg, second half goal from Barcelona’s Neymar allowed the Blaugrana to take a 1-1 result out of the Vicente Calderón. After a 0-0 in leg two, Barça claimed victory, with the away goals tiebreaker handing Gerardo Martino his only trophy with Barcelona.

Should that scenario play out again on Friday, Atlético will win its second honor in four months. Hold their rivals scoreless draw at the Calderón, and Atlético will have a measure of revenge for May’s Champions League final.

On Tuesday at the Bernabéu, the teams picked up where they left off this spring in Lisbon, with an Atlético team willing to rely on its defense seeing very little drawback to the approach. Unable to break though Diego Simeone’s banks of four, a Real Madrid team that started a near-full strength squad left the field without threatening Moyá. The best chances of the half fell to Atlético.

At halftime, Carlo Ancelotti was forced into one change, with an apparent back injury to Cristiano Ronaldo forcing the halftime introduction of Rodríguez. With Toni Kroos already in the team, El Real had its two big summer acquisitions on the field, while signing Mario Mandzukic (starting) and Antoine Griezmann (off the bench) also played a part for Atlético.

Though Real Madrid proved more dangerous from the second half kickoff, the game seemed destined to end scoreless as it entered the final 10 minutes. Then, off play following a corner, Real Madrid right back Daniel Carvajal tried to pick out Karim Benzema making a near post run. The ensuing scrum saw the ball roll out to Rodríguez, who beat Moyá to give the hosts a late lead.

El Real, however, proved willing to give it back. On a late corner kick, Carlo Ancelotti’s defense failed to mark Suárez, who was left with a tap-in from five yards. Helpless to stop the Atlético attacker’s flick, Casillas watched the equalizer float into the right of goal, giving Atlético a 1-1 result.

Ahead of the teams’ Monday La Liga openers, the second leg of the Super Cup will be waged on Friday, when the Vicente Calderón will welcome its champions for the first time since they claimed last year’s Spanish title. If that home field advantage leads to an improvement on today’s play Simeone’s team could raise its second trophy in four months.

VIDEO: Man United’s Marcus Rashford scores 3 minutes into his England debut

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 26:  Marcus Rashford of England arrives at the team hotel on the eve of their international friendly against Australia at the Hilton Gateshead on May 26, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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12 months ago Nine months ago Six months ago Three months ago, if anyone asked you, “who is Marcus Rashford?” you, just like me, probably would have responded as such: “I haven’t a clue. Should I know who he is?”

[ MORE: Man United confirm Mourinho as new manager ]

Stars are, of course, born overnight in the sports world, and the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, who spent 12 years with the club’s youth academy, is just the latest example. On Feb. 25, he made his first-team debut and scored twice in the Europa League. Three days later, he made his Premier League debut, again scoring twice.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “I prefer to forget the last three years at United” ]

Fast forward to Friday, and Rashford is a fully-fledged England international. In keeping up with the theme of his other debuts this season, he marked his international debut with a goal against Australia after just three minutes of play at the Stadium of Light.

It remains to be seen whether Rashford completes his hat trick of debut braces this year. We’ll update this post if he does so.

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.