A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…
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Real Madrid 3-0 Real Sociedad
While the rest of La Liga’s top-tier sides all faltered over the weekend, Real Madrid has created some separation at the top of the league following their solid performance at the Santiago Bernabeu. Mateo Kovacic put Los Blancos in front prior to halftime, while Cristiano Ronaldo dazzled for the game’s second and Alvaro Morata put the finishing touches on the effort for the hosts. Sociedad looked on the back foot all afternoon, and Iñigo Martínez’s second-half red card summed up the match for the fifth-place side.
Real Betis 1-1 Barcelona
The Blaugrana slipped up in a big way on Sunday, although Luis Enrique’s side surely wasn’t aided by the game’s officiating. Luis Suarez rescued the visitors in the 90th minute after Betis took the lead 15 minutes prior through Alex Alegria. However, it was the game’s refereeing in the dying minutes that cost Barca dearly.
Neymar was on the receiving end of a nasty takedown inside the penalty area with under a quarter hour to play, but the official opted to not blow his whistle. Then, an own goal was missed after Betis defender Aissa Mandi cleared the ball away after the ball had already crossed the line.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Espanyol 3-1 Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Sporting Gijon
Sampdoria 3-2 Roma
Despite getting off to a fast start, Roma succumbed to midtable side Sampdoria at Comunale Luigi Ferraris. The visitors led on two separate occasions on Sunday but a pair of late finishes from Patrik Schick and Luis Muriel ensured that Sampdoria would come away with all three points. Roma now sit four points behind leaders Juventus, although the Bianconeri hold a game in hand.
Sassuolo 0-2 Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain is up to 15 goals on the season and Sami Khedira added the second for Juventus before halftime to give the Bianconeri a more comfortable lead at the top of Serie A. The loss for Sassuolo leaves the bottom half side in 16th place, however, the side is still 11 points above the drop zone.
Elsewhere in Serie A
Torino 1-1 Atalanta
Cagliari 1-1 Bologna
Crotone 4-1 Empoli
Fiorentina 3-3 Genoa
Udinese 2-1 AC Milan
Napoli 1-1 Palermo
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.