Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Greece 1, Russia 0

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Man of the Match

It’s so hard to devalue Giorgos Samaras’ stellar work along Greece’s left side and later in the center. Still, it just feels so wrong not to bequeath MoM honors to the man who pounced with such menace and scored such a grand and historic goal, as Giorgos Karagounis did. Besides, Karagounis’ 120th cap tonight equaled Theodoros Zagorakis’s national record, so it really was a memorable night in Warsaw for the veteran Greek frontrunner.

NBC Sports: Greece beats Russia 1-0 to earn quarterfinal spot

Packaged for take-away

  • What is this 2004? Where seemingly better teams come and go … but somehow fall 1-0 to the Greeks?
  • Greek manager Fernando Santos made four lineup changes, reckoning a need for a very experienced lineup that included the 35-year-old Karagounis. And they played a wonderfully intelligent match, absorbing pressure, recognizing Russia’s tendency to get a bit narrow, digging up a goal and then managing out the match – all without goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis ever needing to be overly heroic.
  • Having seen his team fall behind early in Greece’s first two group matches, Santos urged his men to get into the match “straight from the referee’s whistle.” Message heard, apparently, as the Greeks pressed for about the first 10 minutes, with balls flashing dangerously across Russian goal before Andrey Arshavin and Co. got a toehold on the game.
  • Samaras started on the left but was often isolated, with midfield help slow to arrive. His ability to get past one defender and draw a second or third Russian element posed a constant threat and served the essential purpose of subtracting just enough pressure from a Greek back line and midfield that needed just that little bit of assistance. Those 15-20 pass build-ups for Russia pushed Greece further and further back in the first half, so someone had to buy some time once the Greeks did gain the ball, and it was Samaras who did so brilliantly.
  • Russia took control after 10 minutes, patiently probing for chances. But more stable shooting was the missing element, the one that ultimately keeps Dick Advocaat’s quality side from moving on. Aleksandr Kerzhakov, in particular, just couldn’t straighten out his shooting shoes. His movement off the ball was always helpful, but the former Sevilla man did his part as 25 attempts flew mostly high or harmlessly wide. Advocaat had seen enough of his off-target efforts by halftime, removing Kerzhakov.
  • Still, Russia seemed to have matters in hand – before it all turned south, when Karagounis exploited a defensive error and put the Greeks ahead just before intermission. Russian center back Sergei Ignashevich went to sleep or had a brain fart or something, heading a rather benign throw-in toward the middle, where a wide-eyed Karagonis pounced. He drove into the box and fired a ball with purpose under Vyacheslav Malafeev.
  • The goal lifted the Greeks, who were quite credible in the second half, gaining more possession and creating the higher quality chances. Giorgos Tzavellas’ exceptional 70th minute free kick got over the wall and had Malafeev beaten – but just could’t quite beat the woodwork, whacking right off the corner of the goal.
  • Karagounis probably drew a penalty kick in the 61st with a daring dash through the Russian defense. There was sure contact with Ignashevich (yes, him again), but instead of earning a spot shot Karahounis got booked (incorrectly, it appeared) for embellishment or diving or whatever. It’s a shame, because he’ll miss the quarterfinal.
  • If we’re picking nits – and we really should be, seeing as a powerful, pacey and skilled Russian side has been eliminated – perhaps Advocaat’s team was just too narrow. Even left fullback Yuri Zhirkov, who made some blistering runs forward, tended to move inside as he broached the attacking third.
  • Things became even more congested for Russia as the Greeks’ 4-2-3-1 became a 4-5-1 after the break, with wide men Samaras and Dimitris Salpingidis moving their starting positions back about 15-20 yards.
  • Had to say whether it was brilliant, collective midfield tracking and defending, or whether the old Arsenal form for Arshavin popped up at the worst time. Either way, the roaming Russian playmaker simply wasn’t to be found in the second half. He disappeared almost completely for about 20 minutes, finally showing up late to supply a couple of flicks and crosses that almost connected.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.

Ronaldo staying at Real Madrid: ‘See you next year’

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MADRID (AP) — For a third straight year, Real Madrid are celebrating a European title with their fans.

Madrid brought the Champions League trophy home on Sunday and paraded it through the streets of the Spanish capital as thousands of fans saluted the newly crowned champions.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

Madrid was back in Spain after winning its 13th European title with a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday.

Players and team members participated in a ceremony at a local cathedral. After this they met with the city mayor and community president before addressing fans from a terrace at the Puerta del Sol square, one of Madrid’s main locations.

“It has become a routine to be here,” captain Sergio Ramos said. “Hopefully it will continue for many years.”

Cristiano Ronaldo, who after the final hinted he could be leaving Madrid, heard fans asking him to stay at the club.

“Thank you for all of your support,” Ronaldo told the crowd. “We made history, it’s time to be happy.”

The team then got on an open bus and paraded with the trophy until reaching the club’s traditional celebration spot, the Plaza de Cibeles, where fans had been waiting for the champions for hours.

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

The players chanted “Campeones, Campeones” and “We Are Kings of Europe” along with the fans. Ramos and Marcelo carried the trophy across the walkway set up over the plaza’s fountain and draped the statue of the goddess Cibele with a Spain flag that carried Madrid’s name on it. Ramos also put a team scarf around the goddess’ head to huge cheers from the crowd as the song “We Are The Champions” was played.

The next stop was due to be the team’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where nearly 80,000 fans were expected to attend a ceremony honoring the European champions.

The stadium was packed on Saturday with fans watching the match on eight big screens set up at midfield. Confetti blasted from a stage behind the screens when the players lifted the trophy in Ukraine.

Thousands had already made it to the Plaza de Cibeles right after the game in celebrations that lasted into the early hours of Sunday.

Madrid has won the Champions League in four of the last five years. It had beaten Juventus last season, and city rival Atletico Madrid in finals in 2014 and 2016.