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Cristiano Ronaldo strikes in extra time as Real Madrid wins Club World Cup

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It wasn’t nearly as easy as expected, but a hat-trick from Real Madrid’s main man sent them home with the Club World Cup title as the Spanish giants took down a very competitive Kashima Antlers 4-2 in extra time.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 98th minute winner put them through in a game they trailed for a period in the second half thanks to a brace from Gaku Shibasaki.

Real Madrid took an early lead as Benzema struck in just past eight minutes in, and it seemed the game would progress as expected. Luka Modric volleyed a shot from the top of the box that was parried by Antlers goalkeeper Hitoshi Sogahata, but the rebound fell right into the path of Benzema who tapped home easily for the lead.

But the J-League champions would not lay down and die, and they kept things there nearly to halftime, when they drew level a minute before the break. A cross into the box found midfielder Shibasaki all alone in the box, and while he took a heavy touch off his chest that nearly lost him the chance, it appeared the poor touch also caught the defense off guard, and he was allowed to recover and fire home from close range to level things up.

Antlers would then stunningly take the lead in the second half through Shibasaki again. The 24-year-old impressively skipped past a pocket of four Madrid defenders, touching to his left to work some space, and seeing Keylor Navas poorly positioned, he rifled one into the bottom left corner to go 2-1 up.

Cristiano Ronaldo was frustrated for much of the second half, but he would bring Madrid back level right on the hour mark via the penalty spot. Shuto Yamamoto and Shibasaki combined to bring down Lucas Vasquez in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot, allowing Ronaldo and Madrid a way through.

There was a controversial moment near the end of regulation as the referee whistled for a foul on Sergio Ramos, and while it appeared initially the referee would caution Ramos – who was already on a yellow – after a long time with his hand on his pocket, he opted against the decision and allowed Ramos to stay on the pitch.

With the game moving to extra time, Ronaldo found his moment. A beautiful pass from Karim Benzema threaded him through in the box, and all it needed was a clinical finish for the winner. Antlers wouldn’t go down without a fight, as substitute Yuma Suzuki struck the crossbar with a booming set-piece header minutes after Ronaldo’s goal, but it wasn’t to be for the underdogs.

Ronaldo put the game away with his hat-trick goal in the 105th minute as a long shot from Toni Kroos didn’t make it to net, but the block rebound fell into the path of Ronaldo who slammed it home for a 4-2 lead. The win is Real Madrid’s 37th match in a row without defeat across all competitions.

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

Photo credit: New England Revolution / Twitter: @NERevolution
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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”