Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

La Liga: Asensio shines like a star, but Real Madrid draw Valencia

Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Marco Asensio was impressive again, but his two remarkable goals were enough only to salvage a 2-2 draw against Valencia in Real Madrid’s home opener in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Asensio scored the second of his two goals from a free kick in the 83rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

[ MORE: Pulisic, Dempsey, Bradley highlight USMNT roster for WCQ ]

The disappointing result left the defending champions two points behind Real Sociedad, Barcelona and Leganes — the three teams which have won each of their first two matches.

“We deserved more, but you can’t always win,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We had several clear chances to score but couldn’t do it. I’m not happy with the result but I’m proud of the game we played.”

Asensio scored Madrid’s opener in the 10th with a neat run through the middle after a defensive blunder by Valencia. Asensio calmly finished with a well-placed left-foot shot into the left corner.

His second goal came only six minutes after Valencia had taken a 2-1 lead. He struck a low free kick that went around the wall and was too much for Valencia goalkeeper Neto.

“We let two points escape,” Madrid right back Dani Carvajal said.

[ MORE: Torino’s Andrea Belotti scores the goal of the weekend ]

Valencia, coming off a 1-0 win against Las Palmas in the opener, equalized a few minutes after Asensio’s first goal with a close-range shot by Carlos Soler. The visitors went ahead in the second half with a low strike from inside the area by French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.

“Both teams could have ended with the victory,” Valencia coach Marcelino said. “But the draw turned out to be a good result for us and I’m proud of my players.”

Madrid struggled offensively without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo. Karim Benzema wasted opportunities in front of the goal, including from close-range in the 88th. His injury-time header struck the post after being tipped by the goalkeeper.

Neto had already made a great save against Luka Modric’s strike from just outside the area midway through the second half.

[ MORE: Dembele faces impossible task at Barcelona — being Neymar ]

A few minutes later, it was Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas who brilliantly stopped a free kick shot by Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo.

Before the game, Madrid was officially handed the La Liga trophy it won last season.

Madrid, which had opened with a 3-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna, was without suspended defender Sergio Ramos.

On Saturday, Barcelona won 2-0 at Alaves with a pair of goals by Lionel Messi. Atletico Madrid earned its first league victory with a 5-1 rout at Las Palmas.

Paulo Henrique Ganso scored with a brilliant touch in the 83rd minute to give Sevilla a 1-0 win at Getafe.

The Brazilian midfielder neatly redirected the ball into the net after a low cross from the right, securing Sevilla its first league victory.

Sevilla was coming off a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Espanyol.

Getafe had opened with a 0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Leganes defeated Espanyol 1-0 Sunday to continue its perfect start in the Spanish league.

Argentine defender Martin Mantovani scored in the first half to give Leganes the away victory.

It was the second straight win for Leganes, which made its first-division debut last season.

“It’s the type of game that is worth more than three points, it’s an incredible result,” Mantovani said. “We are off to a very good start. We worked very hard in the offseason for this. We can’t get too excited, but it gives us motivation to keep working.”

Mantovani said he forgot to honor his pregnant wife during the goal celebration, having promised her to put the ball under his shirt if he scored.

“She is going to kill me,” he said, smiling.

Athletic Bilbao improved from its opening draw at home by defeating Eibar 1-0 with a first-half goal by Aritz Aduriz.

The veteran striker scored with a close-range header at Eibar’s Ipurua Stadium.

Eibar opened with a 1-0 win at Malaga.

Russia regains FIFA Council seat after Mutko’s ouster

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) Russia has regained its place on the FIFA Council, six months after Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was blocked from re-election.

UEFA member federations on Wednesday elected Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, by acclamation as one of their delegates to FIFA’s strategy-setting committee.

The seat, which runs through 2021, was vacant since May when Mutko was formally forced to step down.

Mutko’s candidacy was blocked by FIFA’s then governance committee chairman, Miguel Maduro, because of a conflict of interest with his government work. Maduro, who was ousted by FIFA weeks later, said last week that the world soccer body’s leaders put pressure on him to protect Mutko’s position.

Meeting with British lawmakers, Maduro said he was told that his ruling on Mutko’s eligibility could threaten FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hold on power and “would be a disaster” for the World Cup.

Sorokin became the eighth of the nine European delegates on the 37-member FIFA Council. The ninth was left vacant in July when long-time Spanish soccer leader Angel Maria Villar resigned as a vice president of FIFA and UEFA after being arrested in a corruption investigation.

Villar was detained along with three other soccer officials, including his son, on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Interim replacements for Villar were to be confirmed later Wednesday at a meeting of the UEFA executive committee.

Predicting the FIFPro World XI for 2016-17

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, releasing the 55 players who received the most votes from over 25,000 professional players from across the globe based on their play in 2016-17, plenty of usual suspects have been selected as the top players on the planet.

But who will make the final XI when it is announced in London on Oct. 23?

[ MORE: FIFPro nominees in full ]

With one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards selected by each professional surveyed, it is quite likely that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will make the team for the 10th straight season. Because, well, they’re Ronaldo and Messi.

Elsewhere there is plenty of debate as to who will make up the defense and midfield and even in goal.

Below I select my XI and I urge you to do the same in the comments section below.

Remember: we can’t always agree on everything but let’s get along…

JPW selects his FIFPro World 11

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Neymar JR (Paris Saint-Germain)

Karim Benzema signs new contract at Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Karim Benzema has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sargent to Werder Bremen ] 

The French striker, 29, has become the latest star name to commit their future to the two-time reigning European champions with Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal all signing new deals over the past week.

Benzema will now remain at Real until June 30, 2021, with the Frenchman scoring 181 goals in 371 appearances as well as winning two La Liga titles, three European Cups and two Copa del Rey trophies during his time in the Spanish capital.

It is believed this new deal has a release clause of over $1.35 billion as Spanish clubs are now becoming increasingly wary of losing their star players a la Neymar leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite his expulsion from the French national team for over 18 months due to his alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving a sex tape and former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has been in fine form for Real since Zinedine Zidane took charge in 2015.

Benzema scored 19 goals in 48 games in all competitions last season and 28 in 36 games the season before that as his hold up play and ability to drift out wide or drop deeper crucial to getting the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Co.

That said, Benzema has scored just once in six appearances this season but Real are obviously happy with what he is producing aside from goals.

With question marks over the future of Bale at the Bernabeu, locking down Benzema shows just how important he is to Zidane’s attacking unit as they seek to seal a third-straight UEFA Champions League title.

FIFA open investigation into Chelsea’s youth transfer policy

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea could be in big trouble.

FIFA have confirmed they’re investigating Chelsea’s youth transfer policy yet again, specifically over the recruitment of foreign players under the age of 18.

What could the punishment be? The worst-case scenario is that Chelsea would be banned from signing any new players across its senior or youth levels but it is believed this situation isn’t as serious as previous investigations involving Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Via the Telegraph, FIFA had the following to say about the investigation: “As the investigation is ongoing, no further comment is possible for the time being.”

Chelsea released a short statement saying: “Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA Statutes and Regulations when recruiting players.”

It will be the third time in eight years that world soccer’s governing body have looked at Chelsea’s youth policy and back in 2009 they were handed a transfer ban for two transfer windows over the signing of French teenager Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007 but that was later overturned after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

Chelsea were also investigated last year over the signing of Bertrand Traore after images emerged of him playing for the club as a 16-year-old, before international clearance had arrived.

Spanish clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been found guilty after similar investigations took place with Barca banned from signing players for two transfer windows and the same happening to Atletico who can’t sign any new players until January 2018, while Real Madrid had their ban reduced to one window after an appeal.

In the UK both Liverpool and Manchester City have recently been handed fines and bans for not following rules over recruiting young players domestically.

For foreign players signing for a team in another country there are strict rules in place.

Their family must either be relocating for non soccer reasons to the country where the new club is based, they must live no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered with is within that 50km radius, or if they sign between the age of 16-18 the new club must provide them with housing, access to education and a soccer education.