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Leganes looks to extend fairy tale run in Copa del Rey

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MADRID (AP) It’s been historically hard to name the third best soccer team in Madrid.

No team has been able to achieve or sustain at least a smidgen of the success of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

The other teams from the capital, or its nearby suburbs, have come and gone in the first division. A few have thrived in the Copa del Rey. But through the years there has never been a clear answer to which one can be considered the city’s third power.

The latest side to have a go is Leganes, based just south of the capital.

On Wednesday, Leganes has a chance to advance to the Copa del Rey final for the first time in its 89-year history. It plays at Sevilla in the second leg of the semifinals. The first leg finished 1-1.

Beating Sevilla won’t be easy, but not impossible either, considering Leganes reversed a 1-0 first-leg loss against Real Madrid in the quarterfinals. It drew 2-2 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to keep alive its impressive run. It eliminated Villarreal in the previous round.

“We don’t have the obligation to win anything, only to give our best whenever we play,” Leganes coach Asier Garitano says.

Leganes had never made it to the Copa quarterfinals until this year. It is playing in the first division of Spanish football only for the second season. It was in the third tier four seasons ago. It has been a rapid rise.

Leganes began gaining some notoriety only in the early 1990s, when it made it to the second division for the first time. It spent nearly a decade back in the third tier, from 2004-2014, before making the run that took the club to the first division in 2016.

Part of the team’s success is linked to real estate businesswoman Victoria Pavon Palomo, who took over as club president in 2009 after her husband, Felipe Moreno Romero, became its biggest shareholder. They gradually revamped the club, which has been run much like a family business since then, with focus on maintaining financial stability.

With one of the smallest budgets in La Liga, Leganes has thrived without making huge signings, relying on local talent and loans.

The current squad has no top names. Its captain is veteran defender Martin Mantovani, who played for Atletico’s youth squads but never made it to a top club. The midfield has Ruben Perez, who also started his career with Atletico, and Gabriel Pires, who used to play in Italian soccer. The attack has Moroccan Nordin Amrabat and Claudio Beauvue.

The team hosts matches in the 11,000-capacity Butarque Stadium in Leganes, a city of nearly 200,000 people about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Madrid. The club says it has about 9,000 members.

Its fans are called the “pepineros,” or cucumber growers, because of the vegetable for which the region was known for in the past.

The club said six buses with pepineros will make the trip to Seville for the semifinal on Wednesday.

Getafe is the only other Madrid-area team in the first division this season, having played in the top tier since 2004. There were five Madrid teams in the top-flight two seasons ago, when Rayo Vallecano also participated.

Atletico is second to Barcelona in the Spanish league, with Real Madrid in fourth. Getafe is 11th and Leganes 12th, with a game in hand. Getafe and Leganes drew 0-0 last weekend in the southern Madrid derby.

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

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Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: Davies stuns Spurs late

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A valiant effort from a League One side has rewarded the minnows with a replay set to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur looked on its way towards the FA Cup sixth round on Sunday, but a late finish by Steven Davies gave Rochdale a 2-2 draw with the Premier League club at the Spotland Stadium.

[ MORE: Willian stars as Chelsea routs Hull in FA Cup ]

Harry Kane — who scored his 34th goal on the season in all competitions — converted from the penalty spot in the 88th minute, however, Davies had the final say deep into stoppage time to send the two sides towards a replay.

Ian Henderson’s finish in the 45th minute gave Rochdale a gift at the conclusion of the first stanza, after the hosts capitalized on a Spurs giveaway near midfield.

Meanwhile, Tottenham managed to level the match at 1-1 on the hour mark when Lucas Moura calmly slotted his close-range shot past goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a timely through ball from Moussa Sissoko picked out the former PSG man.

The visitors began pressing on in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having trailed at the halftime break.

The two sides will now meet on either Feb. 27 or 28 in the reverse fixture to decide which team advances. The winner will either meet Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea City in the quarterfinals.

Scholes: Pogba didn’t earn Man United spot in 2012 before Juve stint

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Paul Pogba‘s young career has been bright, but a former Manchester United legend suggests that there was a time where the Frenchman struggled to find his way at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Man United draws Brighton, Chelsea gets Leicester in FA Cup quarters

The 24-year-old Pogba is now in his second stint with the Red Devils, after spending four seasons in Italy with giants Juventus.

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes says though that back in 2012 — prior to Pogba’s move to Juve — that the physical player wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t getting regular minutes with the first team.

“Ferguson wanted me initially to come back and coach the reserve team with Warren Joyce,” he told BT Sport. “I said in September I’d come back. So I started helping Joycey, and I was training with the reserves.

“I was training every day with the likes of Pogba, Lingard, all these types of players. They were a really good side and I was really enjoying training. I was getting fit, I felt great, and it got to December time and the team was struggling a bit.

“They had a load of injuries, no central midfield players were fit. They ended up playing Phil Jones and Fabio da Silva in central midfield in a game against Blackburn at Old Trafford.

“Funnily enough that was the end of Pogba, because he thought he should have been playing instead of them. But he wasn’t doing well enough.”

Scholes, who had retired briefly in 2011, came back after just six months for the Red Devils, and ended up playing a year-and-a-half more following the decision to end his playing career.

It is widely believed that Pogba’s decision to head to Juventus was largely due to the impact of Scholes in the United squad.

Video: Rochdale puts Tottenham on upset alert at the half

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It’s been a tremendous season for Ian Henderson, particularly in the FA Cup, and now he and his side are one half away from upsetting one of the Premier League giants.

Henderson’s finish on the brink of halftime has put League One side Rochdale up 1-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, as the minnows aim to become the first non-PL side to advance to the quarterfinals in this season’s tournament.

A sloppy giveaway from Spurs near midfield created the attack for the hosts, and allowed Rochdale to capitalize on one of its few attacks during the opening stanza.

Benfica routs Boavista 4-0 to take lead in Portugal

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Benfica routed Boavista 4-0 to move ahead of FC Porto at the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday.

Benfica is one point in front of Porto, which has two games to play.

[ MORE: Man United gets Brighton in FA Cup quarters, Chelsea draws Leicester ]

Ruben Dias opened the scoring for Benfica in the 18th minute when he headed in a pass from Jardel.

Jardel added a goal just before halftime. Boavista’s Nuno Henrique also scored an own goal before Raul Jimenez polished off the victory in the 90th.

Jonas had a penalty saved by Boavista goalkeeper Vagner with the score 0-0.

Porto hosts Rio Ave on Sunday. Sporting Lisbon is three points behind Benfica before visiting Tondela on Monday.