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Bundesliga: Bayern rescue draw late; Dortmund play for 25k fewer fans

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BERLIN (AP) Robert Lewandowski struck in the seventh minute of injury time for Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich to draw at Hertha Berlin 1-1 and avoid to its second defeat on Saturday.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

Lewandowski rifled in the ball after Arjen Robben’s effort was blocked on the line, setting off celebrations cut short amid initial confusion over whether the goal stood.

Hertha had long been calling for the final whistle – five minutes of injury time were indicated – but Bayern’s last chance came when Peter Pekarik fouled Kingsley Coman on the edge of the penalty area. Thiago Alcantara sent the ball in for Robben to shoot. Lewandowski’s goal was eventually confirmed.

“A game lasts until the referee blows the whistle,” Hertha coach Pal Dardai said. “We’re disappointed. A win would not have been undeserved.”

It looked like Vedad Ibisevic’s first-half strike was going to be enough for Hertha to end its losing streak to Bayern with a hard-fought win.

Hertha had lost to Bayern in their previous 11 meetings, and captain Ibisevic hadn’t scored in seven league games, eight altogether.

The striker ended his 717-minute goal-drought to fire the home side ahead in the 21st minute when he was first to Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick and beat Manuel Neuer at the near post.

Bayern, which routed Arsenal 5-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday, dominated but found it hard to penetrate Hertha’s hard-working defense. The home side remained compact, committed, and motivated.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side increased the pressure as the second half progressed but Bayern was forced from left to right and back again, occasionally sending in crosses that Rune Jarstein picked out or his defenders headed away and blocked until Lewandowski finally broke through.

“We ran to the end,” Bayern’s Thomas Mueller said. “We have the mentality.”

Hertha stayed sixth, while Bayern opened an eight-point lead over Leipzig, playing at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday.

Hamburger SV was hosting Freiburg later Saturday.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

Almost 25,000 Dortmund fans were prevented from attending the Lukasz Piszczek show. The Westfalenstadion’s south stand was closed due to fan trouble at previous games.

Some fans held protests against the German soccer federation’s decision, while Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said playing without the south stand was “like football without a ball.”

Players challenge for the ball in front of the empty south tribune during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg in Dortmund, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. The German Football Association (DFB) has called for Dortmund's famous south stand to be closed following crowd trouble in the Bundesliga match against RB Leipzig 2 weeks ago.  (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Those attending saw a promising start but it was a Wolfsburg player who scored first, albeit at the wrong end when Jeffrey Bruma headed Piszczek’s flick past his own goalkeeper.

Piszczek, a defender, claimed a goal of his own right after the interval, heading in a cross from Ousmane Dembele, and he returned the favor to effectively seal the result before the hour-mark.

Bremen needed a win to ease the pressure on Alexander Nouri after four straight defeats since the winter break.

[ MORE: Wenger says he’ll manage next season, at Arsenal or not ]

The unmarked Serge Gnabry headed the early opener inside the far post from a corner and Thomas Delaney doubled the lead with a brilliant free kick minutes later.

Delaney was later taken to a hospital with suspected concussion, the only black mark on the afternoon for Bremen.

Ingolstadt scored early then Frankfurt’s David Abraham was sent off for a studs-up challenge into Dario Lezcano’s stomach.

The home side was given a lifeline when Ingolstadt `keeper Martin Hansen conceded a penalty, but he saved it, and Makoto Hasebe crashed the rebound off the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie earned a penalty at the other end, and it became 2-0, but Leckie was sent off late for a similar challenge to Abraham’s.

Two goals from Hoffenheim substitute Andrej Kramaric were enough to deal the bottom club its 10th away defeat.

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.

Report: FIFA president Infantino in hot water

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The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.

According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.

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The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.

FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.

The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.

Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.