The referee was the focal point as Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey matchup.
Goals from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams downed the Catalans, while a free-kick from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona life heading into the second leg.
There were a number of key refereeing decisions that led to the result. The most scrutinized was a pretty awful no-call in the first half after a challenge by Xabier Etxeita that left Neymar in a heap in the penalty area, but instead the referee shook his head.
Later, the referee was back in the spotlight after he sent off both Raul Gardia and Ander Iturraspe of Athletic in the second half for questionable second yellow cards. Despite the two-man advantage, Barcelona was never able to level things up. There was also a heated exchange between Aduriz and Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti which saw them both receive yellow cards.
Despite all this, Barcelona only had itself to blame. The second Athletic goal, from Inaki Williams in the 27th minute, came from absolutely nothing, when Jordi Alba gave the ball away and the hosts pounced swiftly, as Aduriz delivered a back-heel to Williams who hammered the ball with blistering pace into the back of the net.
The two will play the second leg at the Camp Nou on January 11th.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former France winger Florent Malouda has lost his appeal against being ruled ineligible to play for French Guiana at the 2017 Gold Cup.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport says its judges dismissed Malouda’s appeal against North American soccer body CONCACAF.
French Guiana fielded Malouda in a 0-0 draw against Honduras last July despite being told he was not eligible. CONCACAF awarded a 3-0 win to Honduras and suspended Malouda.
The Gold Cup uses FIFA eligibility rules which bar players from transferring allegiance after playing a competitive game for one country.
Malouda played 80 times for France including a 2006 World Cup final loss against Italy.
The French Guiana soccer federation hoped Malouda, now aged 37, could play in the Gold Cup because it is not a FIFA member.
A U.S. Men’s National Team forward will probably have to wait a bit longer to come to Major League Soccer if that is the path that he chooses.
Reports have recently surfaced linking Bobby Wood to MLS at the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, however, MLSSoccer.com is reporting that a move for the American likely won’t come in 2018.
Wood, who remains under contract for three more seasons at Hamburg, is currently fighting relegation in Germany with his club side.
Hamburg currently sits 17th in the German top flight, eight points buried in the relegation zone with four matches remaining.
The MLSSoccer.com report suggests that MLS clubs aren’t willing to compensate Wood at the current rate of his contract in Germany.
Currently, Wood is making “several million dollars” per season, and even if Hamburg is relegated in 2017/18 Wood’s contract wouldn’t decrease to a number that clubs are comfortable paying.
If Wood was to join MLS, he would be considered a Discovery signing as he is not currently on the MLS player allocation list. The Washington Post previously reported that an MLS club has Wood included on their Discovery list, although the team’s identity isn’t known.
Marouane Fellaini‘s time in Manchester looks to be numbered, and a move abroad could have the Belgian in line for one last payday during his career.
The Manchester United midfielder has rejected multiple offers to stay on at Old Trafford ahead of his contract expiring this summer, which would allow Fellaini to pursue other opportunities come June.
Fellaini is being linked to moves to Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, as the veteran aims to secure a sizable contract upon leaving the Red Devils after over five-and-a-half years with the club.
The Daily Mail is also reporting that Fellaini would be open to hearing options that could keep him in the Premier League, although it is unclear if there is any serious interest from English sides at this time.
Since the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, Fellaini has struggled to find playing time under manager Jose Mourinho.
This season, the Belgium international has appeared in just 14 PL matches and 19 in all competitions. Fellaini has scored four goals in that span.
The Chicago Fire won’t be moving into a new stadium 2019, however, their venue will have a new name donned on the side of it.
For years, the Eastern Conference side has played its home matches at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, but starting next season the Fire’s home turf will be called SeatGeek Stadium as part of a rebrand.
SeatGeek is one of the largest online after-market ticket distributors, and was created back in 2009.
Toyota Park will undergo its transformation at the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.
The venue is also home to the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.