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Ligue 1 roundup: PSG grab late win to open early 6-point lead

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PARIS (AP) On a frustrating day for the world’s two most expensive players, and with the club’s top scorer rested, it was unheralded defender Thomas Meunier who got Paris Saint-Germain’s goals in a 2-1 win at Dijon on Saturday.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe cost PSG a combined $478 million when they joined in the offseason. They had an off day, although Mbappe made some amends by setting up Meunier’s winner in the second minute of injury time.

It was the attack-minded right back’s fourth goal in four games, including one for Belgium last weekend in a World Cup qualifier.

“I always try and follow things up, that’s my style,” Meunier said. “I love bringing something to the attack.”

The win moved French league leader PSG six points clear of defending champion Monaco, which lost at Lyon 3-2 on Friday.

PSG was without Edinson Cavani — left out after playing for Uruguay in World Cup qualifying this week — but carved out enough chances to win easily.

PSG was coasting to victory until the 87th minute, when Dijon launched a hopeful ball up the field, forcing PSG center half Marquinhos to hack clear. The looping ball fell to forward Benjamin Jeannot some 35 yards out and he hit a tremendous left-footed volley over the head of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Then Mbappe’s cross fell to Meunier on the edge of the area, and his low shot squeezed through the legs of defender Oussama Haddadi and over the line.

“We fought hard the whole game and showed that we could stand up to PSG,” Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet said. “We got back into the game in an incredible way, so it’s a pity to concede that goal the way we did. We lost a bit of concentration.”

Dijon played with a high energy and harried PSG all over the pitch, forcing mistakes.

PSG’s frustration showed when Neymar was shown a yellow card for a cheap foul on Dijon defender Cedric Varrault.

Reynet made a stunning reflex save to push away Mbappe’s low volley and saved again moments later from Neymar’s strike, but could not recover in time to stop Meunier’s low shot slipping under his body in the 70th.

Saint-Etienne scored three late goals to beat Metz 3-1 and move up to third place, while Caen dropped down to eighth spot after losing 2-0 at home to Angers.

Guingamp moved up to ninth with a 2-0 home win over Rennes, but Lille’s struggles continued as it conceded an injury-time goal in a 2-2 home draw with Troyes.

Striker Andy Delort’s first-half goal sealed mid-table Toulouse a 1-0 home win against Amiens.


PARIS (AP) Montpellier continued its habit of troubling the leading teams by beating Nice 2-0 in the French league on Sunday.

Montpellier is unbeaten so far against the top three from last season. It has drawn against defending champion Monaco and runner-up Paris Saint-Germain and comfortably beaten Nice in successive games.

Benin attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon and Belgium forward Isaac Mbenza scored in the second half with their first goals of the campaign.

Sessegnon was once considered among the biggest talents in the French league when he joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2008, but his career never really took off despite several years in the English Premier League with Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.

The 33-year-old Sessegnon showed a glimpse of his ability, however, with a ferocious strike from 25 meters (yards) that flew into the top right corner in the 55th minute.

The win moved Montpellier up to mid-table, while Nice drops down to a miserable 14th place after its fifth defeat so far.

Nice offered little threat, with Mario Balotelli well contained by the home defense. When the former Inter Milan and Manchester City striker did get a chance in the first half, he was thwarted by goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte’s sprawling save.

Nantes is resolute, well organized, opportunist and tough to beat under coach Claudio Ranieri.

Sound familiar? So was unheralded Leicester when Ranieri guided it to the Premier League title in 2015-16 in one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

Ranieri has little hope of winning the French title this season, however, faced with the attacking power of Paris Saint-Germain.

After losing the first two league games, Ranieri’s side is unbeaten in seven and sits comfortably in fourth place following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Bordeaux.

Wigan boss defends fans after pitch-storming

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Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook is defending his supporters following a memorable upset of Manchester City in the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Latics fans stormed the pitch at the DW Stadium, a celebratory but dangerous scene which included “disturbances” between supporters of both clubs and a confronration between fans and Sergio Aguero.

But it takes just a look at the above photo to see both sides of the issues, as the photographer at right catches fans and players celebrating together… while Aguero rages behind him.

From Sky Sports:

“You’ve got to remember the pure emotions of the night for Wigan fans,” he said.

“They didn’t really turn up to see us win – that’s the truth of it. I’ve got a picture of my son in the directors’ box – he’s only 12 – with his head in his hands looking at the floor because he couldn’t watch.

“We certainly don’t want to see fans engaging with players. The players’ protection is absolutely paramount. But also the supporters enjoying that moment is a good thing for me.”

There is, also, this photo to show the other side of the scenario. Ultimately in our era, this type should sadly be prevented to defy the potential for the latter. That’s sad, but it’s a litigious world.

Dan Burn of Wigan Athletic celebrates. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

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  • Watford has two wins in last 14 PL matches
  • Toffees won 3-2 at Goodison on Nov. 5
  • Watford leads all-time 19W-3D-3L

Two top half hopefuls meet at Vicarage Road in a reprise of an early season thriller when Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Everton is in a battle for seventh with Burnley and Leicester City, and could finish the weekend there with a win and help.

Watford has to chance to finish in the top half. It’d be there already had it not coughed up a 2-0 lead to then-caretaker manager David Unsworth‘s Everton in a 3-2 loss on Nov. 5.

What they’re saying

Watford’s Jose Holebas on the match“We have to do something in this game. When we played there, we were 2-0 up and gave the game away in that way – it is unacceptable for me. I was a little bit emotional because I know that this season we have lost some points [from winning positions].”

Everton’s Sam Allardyce on his style critics“The type of football we’ve produced isn’t rubbish, we’ve produced proper football in terms of what we’ve tried to achieve. The past reputation is not the reality if you ask the players, so you look at the football we’ve played since I’ve been here.”

Prediction

Police say officer collapsed by himself during fan violence

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MADRID (AP) The riot police officer who died of cardiac arrest during crowd trouble before a Europa League match in Spain collapsed on his own and not in a direct confrontation with fans, authorities said Friday.

Officials in the Basque region of Spain said doctors dismissed the possibility the cardiac arrest was caused by any type of trauma sustained by the officer in fighting that took place before the match between Athletic Bilbao and Russian club Spartak Moscow on Thursday.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

There had been conflicting reports about what caused the officer’s death, with some saying he might have been involved in a struggle with fans or was hit by one of the many objects being thrown during the altercation.

Five people remained detained – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards – following the violent clashes that took place less than four months before the World Cup is held in Russia.

Authorities identified the victim as 51-year-old Inocencio Alonso Garcia and said he “suddenly felt ill in the course of the serious incidents” that took place outside San Mames Stadium in the northern city of Bilbao.

They said the officer was quickly transported from the scene but went into cardiac arrest before arriving at the nearby Basurto hospital. Doctors said they tried to revive him for more than an hour.

Video footage published by local media appeared to show the moment the officer collapsed while standing near the fighting along with other policemen.

Other images of the clashes showed fans hitting each other, and a group of policemen striking a man on the ground after he fell trying to run away.

The officer who died was among the large police force summoned to try to keep order as several hundred Russian fans – many of them considered by local authorities as radical ultras – arrived in the city for the round-of-32 match in Europe’s second-tier club competition.

The trouble erupted as police were escorting Spartak fans into the stadium and a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. West Ham ]

Police said “violent fans from both clubs” participated in the fighting which spread onto the streets near the stadium located in a central area of Bilbao. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks went off all around.

Authorities said they had identified several people before the fighting carrying items that included knives, iron bars, brass knuckles and even bags of stones.

There had been reports of other minor clashes involving Russian fans in Bilbao ahead of Thursday’s match, which Spartak won 2-1. Athletic advanced despite the loss, winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

UEFA condemned the violent clashes and said it was in contact with local authorities to obtain more information on the incidents, while Spanish league president Javier Tebas called for action by FIFA and UEFA to halt fan violence.

Bilbao will host matches in the 2020 European Championship. Six years ago, a fan died in the city in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

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  • Foxes unbeaten in five vs. Stoke
  • Drew 2-2 at the Potteries on Nov. 4
  • Leicester leads all-time 34W-34D-31L

Leicester City can rejoin the Top Seven with a win and help on Friday when it hosts relegation-threatened Stoke City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Foxes sit eighth in the Premier League table, a point back of Burnley (The Clarets host Southampton on Saturday)

Stoke, meanwhile, is two points back of safety. The half-full glass says the Potters have only lost once since Paul Lambert took over as boss, but the half-empty one sees draws against Watford and Brighton to go a loss at Bournemouth.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claude Puel on Stoke’s fortunes: “Shaqiri can make the difference and at the moment they play well with a good fighting spirit. I think they play good football on the floor. When they recover the ball they try to get in behind and make good pressing on the opponent. Shaqiri has more freedom and plays between the lines and they are a good team at this moment.”

Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Paul Lambert’s style“He has a German mentality with his teams… I’m really glad he came here. With German teams they always sit together – there are no phones on the table. It’s brought us more together – when you eat together you have to speak more to other team-mates who you don’t normally speak to. It’s a good thing.”

Prediction

Phone ban or no, it will take improved communication to deal with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Adrien Silva. Leicester gets another win, 3-0.