AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

Top 10 moments: Man City’s PL title-winning season

Leave a comment

Though Manchester City clinched the 2017-18 Premier League title on Sunday, thanks to Manchester United’s 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion, Pep Guardiola‘s squad still strives to reach the 100-point mark before season’s end.

[ MORE: PST’s latest coverage of Man City’s title win ]

While their quest to be dubbed the best PL side of all time will continue next weekend, we stop to appreciate and relive the top 10 moments of their title-winning season (so far)…

10.Β 96′ vs. Bournemouth β€” Aug. 26 β€” Sterling’s late winner β€” Raheem Sterling scoring late, game-winning goals (all in the 84th minute or later) would become a recurring theme of the first half of the season.

9. 84′ vs. Huddersfield β€” Nov. 26 β€” Sterling does it again

8. 95′ vs. Southampton β€” Nov. 29 β€” Sterling, again… again

[ MORE: Ranking the impact of each City player this season ]

7.Β 16-0 in back-to-back-to-back weeks β€” Sept. 9-Sept.23 β€” An unstoppable force β€” Liverpool (more on that game a little later), Watford and Crystal Palace were on the wrong end of City’s most dominant, ruthless run of a the season: a three-game stretch which saw them soar by a combined score of 16-0 (it would then be extended to 24-2 over the three ensuing games, thanks in large part to a 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City three weeks later).

6.Β Newcastle United 0-1 Man City β€” Dec. 27 β€” 18 straight wins β€” City’s PL-record 18-game winning streak began on Aug. 26 and didn’t end until New Year’s Eve (a span of 127 day before points dropped). The unbeaten start would go on another two weeks before ending at 22 games with a thrilling defeat away to Liverpool two weeks into the new year.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to City winning Premier League title ]

5. Chelsea 0-1 Man City β€” Sept. 30 β€” Title credentials established β€” Ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge, City entered the weekend top of the table but level on points with Man United and only three ahead of their Week 7 foes, Chelsea. The overall performance was utterly dominant (17 shots to 4; 6 on target to 2), but the result remained in doubt for more than an hour, until Kevin De Bruyne bagged the game’s only goal, a fantastic solo effort, in the 67 minute.

4. Tottenham 1-3 Man City β€” April 14 β€” The final win β€” In total control from the first to final whistles, City breezed past Tottenham to move to within three points of the title.

3. Man United 1-2 Man City β€” Dec. 10 β€” Derby delight at Old Trafford β€” Winning away in the Manchester derby would have been the defining moment of City’s season in years and decades gone by. Now, it’s little more than a footnote in a throughly brilliant season.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to United’s loss, City’s title win ]

2. Man United 0-1 West Brom β€” April 15 β€” Friendly neighbors β€” A day after beating Tottenham, and a week after blowing a 2-0 lead against their neighbors in redΒ (for just their second loss of the season), all Man United need was a point against last-place and all-but-relegated West Bromwich Albion, but Jose Mourinho’s men fell flat on their face. Thus, City were officially champions.

1. Man City 5-0 Liverpool β€” Sept. 9 β€” Destruction of the Reds β€” Liverpool looked like genuine title contenders through their first three games (the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino had just combined to thrash Arsenal to the tune of 4-0 one game earlier, and Philippe Coutinho was yet to even make his 2017-18 debut), but the Reds’ trip to the Etihad Stadium brought about an entirely different reality: City were of another universe entirely. They did it against 10 men following Mane’s early sending-off for a boot to the face of Ederson, but they were never more ruthless than that day in early September.

La Liga: Barcelona win to go 14 clear, set unbeaten record at 39

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Wolverhampton Wanderers win promotion, return to PL ]

Barcelona 2-1 Valencia

They’re out of the Champions League in heartbreaking fashion, sure, but Barcelona bounced back to winning ways in league play on Saturday, and in the process set a new La Liga record by improving to 39 games without defeat, dating back to last season. It’s hardlyΒ commensurate consolation after blowing a 4-1 lead over Roma following the first leg, but it’s yet another piece of history nonetheless.

On the not-so-bright side, Valencia entered the weekend one point ahead of Real Madrid for third place, thus beating Los Che opened the door for Los Blancos to return to third on Sunday.

Luis Suarez bagged the game’s opening goal after a quarter-hour, poking the ball past the goalkeeper from close range at the near post, and Samuel Umtiti made it 2-0 in the 51st minute β€” both goals were set up by Philippe Coutinho.

With the victory, Barca are now 14 points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid, with the season’s final El Clasico coming up in three short weeks, at the Camp Nou.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Girona 0-1 Real Betis (Friday)
Sevilla 2-2 Villarreal
Leganes 1-0 Celta Vigo
Las Palmas 0-1 Real Sociedad
Atletico Bilbao 2-3 Deportivo La CoruΓ±a

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Eibar vs. Alaves β€” 6 a.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Levante β€” 10:15 a.m. ET
Getafe vs. Espanyol β€” 12:30 p.m. ET
Malaga vs. Real Madrid β€” 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Real Madrid wants Salah swap for Isco, money

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mohamed Salah is having a magical season, and there’s every reason to believe he’s capable of performing at a similar level for several years.

This has led to reports of a wild $280 million price tag and also to Real Madrid and other rich clubs thinking of plying him from Liverpool (We’ve made the argument that the Egyptian is “unsellable” given Liverpool’s goals under Jurgen Klopp).

[ MORE: Salah injury update ]

Diario GolΒ says that Real knows that Liverpool wouldn’t dream of selling Salah for less than Barcelona paid for Philippe Coutinho (and that’s quite reasonable, considering that Coutinho’s best season is nowhere near Salah’s 2017-18 and not even really his 2016-17 at AS Roma).

So the thought is that Real will offer Spanish playmaker Isco and $62 million for Salah. The reasoning behind the move actually has some merit from a footballing perspective, with Isco very much a Klopp type and Zinedine Zidane wanting more of a defensive effort from the 25-year-old.

That said, there is no way that monetary figure cuts muster for the Reds. But if it’s an opening salvo in the gossip games, we rate it as decent enough to warrant a mention.

Five things learned from internationals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a plethora of international friendlies taking place across globe on Friday, we learned plenty about where the teams heading to the 2018 World Cup are it in their preparation for the big dance in Russia this summer.

[ MORE: International wrap ]Β 

In case you weren’t scouring the globe at obscene hours to stay in touch with all the action, we were.

Here’s what we learned.


South American teams in fine fettle

CONMEBOL went five for five on Friday with wins for Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia. There is no doubt that South America will once again dominate at the World Cup this summer. Brazil dealt easily with Russia without Neymar as Miranda, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho scored in the second half as they continue their fine run. Argentina didn’t start Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero against Italy at the Etihad Stadium but ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Maneul Lanzini (his first for his nation) and Ever Banega getting the job done. Plenty of starters were rested at the 2014 runners up look incredibly strong. Plus, they don’t have to worry about losing out to Chile like they have in the last two Copa America tournaments.

Uruguay’s stars shone against the Czech Republic with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani on target in China, while Colombia’s fine comeback in France stole the show. Trailing 2-0 with 26 minutes gone, Colombia scored two late goals via Radamel Falcao and Juan Quintero to grab the victory in Paris. A fit Falcao will make a huge difference to Los Cafeteros’ chances of getting past the last eight this time out. Peru, who will be at their first World Cup since 1982 this summer, completed a fine showing for the five CONMEBOL teams who qualified the World Cup this summer as they beat Croatia 2-0. For those who are still shocked that Chile won’t be going to the World Cup this summer, these results prove just how strong South America has become.


England mature in 3-4-3 formation

Okay, the 1-0 win in Amsterdam was against a very poor Netherlands outfit who are in transition, haven’t qualified for the last two major tournaments and Ronald Koeman has a massive rebuilding job on his hands. But still, England were extremely impressive. The way Gareth Southgate‘s men moved the ball around in a 3-4-3 formation proved they are developing well and Kyle Walker as a right-sided center back was a revelation. Without the injured Harry Kane, the Three Lions did lack a bit of cutting edge up front but Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were so dangerous on the break and the main takeaway was the balance of this team and the composure on the ball of the defenders. Jesse Lingard (who scored his first international goal), John Stones, Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford all staked their claims for a starting spot this summer as England are unbeaten in seven games and haven’t conceded in their last five, including the last three against Germany, Brazil and Holland. Whisper it: England could be the darkhorses this summer.


Germany, Spain the real deals

The class of these two teams suggests that they will go far this summer. The reigning World Cup champs equalized through Thomas Muller’s stunning goal after Rodrigo popped up (after Andres Iniesta’s perfect pass) to put Spain ahead early on in a high tempo, high quality encounter. This is just the kind of tune-up both teams needed as Joachim Low andΒ Julen Lopetegui have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. Both teams were close to full strength and this underlined their status as favorites to win the World Cup this summer. Germany haven’t lost in their last 22 games, while Spain hasn’t lost in 17 as the past two World Cup champs have not only got veterans in fine form but are also bringing through the next wave of talent. Also, Germany have Manuel Neuer to return from injury, while Spain will rely on Diego Costa getting back to his best to spearhead their attack this summer. Still, this was a hugely impressive display from both teams as Spain host Argentina in Madrid next week and Germany play Brazil in Berlin. Those four teams are surely the current favorites to win it all.


Ronaldo remains red-hot as Egypt impress

23 goals in his last 12 games for club and country. 23. Cristiano Ronaldo is in fine form after a slow start to the season where many questioned if he had turned the corner and had entered the final stretch of his legendary career. Not so fast. Portugal’s man main throughout his career, Ronaldo, now 33, popped up twice in stoppage time in Zurich, Switzerland to seal a comeback 2-1 win against an impressive Egypt side. Mohamed Salah (of course) got Egypt’s goal as the Pharaohs look forward to their first World Cup since 1990 and are set to be the darlings of the tournament this summer. Yet Ronaldo spoiled their party on Friday as he scored two bullet headers for the reigning European champs, with the winner looked at by VAR but correctly allowed. Will Ronaldo retire after the World Cup this summer? Portugal will hope he can go on for at least another four years and at this rate he will continue to deliver up until, and during, the 2022 World Cup.


Mexico ticking over nicely

El Tri beat Iceland 3-0 on Friday as an experimental side proved just how strong they are with Juan Carlos Osorio making plenty of changes as Mexico strolled to victory in front of 68,917 fans in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Marco Fabian struck a beautiful free kick in the first half and Miguel Layun added two goals after the break to beat Iceland, with The Vikings heading to its first-ever World Cup this summer as the smallest nation to ever quality. For Mexico, they will be hoping to continue their development under Osorio as the oft-maligned coach has won 30 of his 45 games in charge since taking over in 2015. Not bad, Juan Carlos. El Tri had Javier Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela all on the bench as they will all likely play against Croatia on Tuesday in Texas. For Mexico, their World Cup opener against Germany is their toughest game of the group stage but Osorio must be pleased with the options at his disposal and the performance of goalkeeper Jesus Corona to keep out Iceland, who did create chances with direct play, was impressive. Mexico is humming along nicely as it heads to the World Cup aiming to make the knockout rounds once again.