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La Liga & Serie A: Sevilla ends Real streak; Fiorentina tops Juventus

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

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Sevilla 2-1 Real Madrid

Chances were hard to come by for the two top-tier sides during the early portion of the match, but Sevilla pulled off a massive victory to halt Real’s 40-match unbeaten streak. Stevan Jovetic scored in the final minute to hand Sevilla all three points against the league leaders on Sunday after a late Sergio Ramos own goal pulled Sevilla back level. Cristiano Ronaldo had confidently given Real the lead in the second half when the Portuguese attacker converted from the penalty spot in the 67th minute to give Los Blancos the lead.

Valencia 2-1 Espanyol

Valencia picked up a huge victory on Sunday, snapping an eight-game winless streak, to create some separation above the relegation zone. Martin Montoya and Santi Mina each scored for the hosts, while David Lopez pulled one back late for Espanyol. Valencia currently sits 17th in La Liga, four points above the bottom three.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sporting Gijon 2-3 Eibar
Celta Vigo 1-0 Alaves
Granada 0-1 Osasuna


Fiorentina 2-1 Juventus

The gap has just narrowed significantly at the top of Serie A thanks to Fiorentina’s effort on Sunday. Goals from Milan Badelj and Nikola Kalinic helped pace the Viola against the league leaders, who have seen their advantage over second place Roma dwindle down to one point. Gonzalo Higuain managed to pull one back for Juventus in the second stanza, but the club’s 10-match win streak in league play has come to an end.

Napoli 3-1 Pescara

After a quiet opening 45 minutes, the goals started to flow through the Stadio San Paolo. Four to be exact in the second stanza. Napoli scored twice inside the opening four minutes of the second half by way of Lorenzo Tonelli and Marek Hamsik, while Dries Mertens added a third for the home side in the 85th minute. The visitors pulled back a late consolation when Gianluca Caprari scored in stoppage time but it wasn’t enough to give Pescara a share of the points.

Udinese 0-1 Roma

While Juventus continues towards another Serie A title this season, Roma won’t make it easy for the reigning champions. The Giallorossi remain hot on the heels of Juventus after picking up another victory on Sunday, courtesy of Radja Nainggolan’s first-half finish. Roma has now won four of its last five Serie A matches, with their only defeat coming against the league leaders prior to the holidays.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagliari 4-1 Genoa
Lazio 2-1 Atalanta
Sampdoria 0-0 Empoli
Sassuolo 4-1 Palermo


Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.