Though our soccer Saturday is just starting, the day is well underway in Asia, where the AFC have crowned a new confederation champion. And thanks to one of the goal celebrations, we also got confirmation that Gangnam Style is still a thing. Thanks for that, Rafinha.
The Brazilian attacker, who scored the day’s second goal, helped complete South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai’s remarkable run to their first confederation title. In front of 42,153 at the Big Crown in Ulsan, last year’s K-League runners-up got goals from Korean international defender Kwak Taw-Hwi (13′), Rafinha (67′), and winger Kim Seung-Yong (76′) en route to a surprisingly easy 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli.
The win culminated an amazing 10-0-2 run by Ulsan, with the team overcoming a slow start to blast their way through the last half of the competition. Once done with their East Asian competition (after the Round of 16), Ulsan posted +12 goal difference over the tournament’s last three round. They closed the competition with nine straight wins.
Along the way, Ulsan became the seventh different Korean team to win an Asian title, the third to claim the crown in the last four years. A K-League team has appeared in eight of the last 12 finals.
Forward Lee Keun-Ho, in his first season with Ulsan after five years in Japan, was named tournament MVP, with Kwak earning the honors for the final game.
Here are the highlights. Whoop `em Ulsan Style.
AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) Japanese side Kashima Antlers beat Chivas of Mexico 3-2 on Saturday, advancing to a semifinal against Real Madrid at the Club World Cup.
Ryota Nagaki canceled out Angel Zaldivar’s early goal for Chivas and Kashima took the lead when Serginho converted a penalty in the 69th minute.
Hiroki Abe assured the win with a goal in the 84th before Hugo Leonardo scored an own goal in stoppage time.
Kashima will play Madrid on Wednesday.
Madrid needed extra time to beat Kashima 4-2 in the 2016 final of the Club World Cup.
Also, Al Ain FC beat Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-0, setting up the other semifinal with South American champion River Plate on Tuesday.
A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…
[ SERIE A: Cristiano Ronaldo scores winner in his first Turin derby ]
Real Valladolid 2-3 Atletico Madrid
Despite a largely indifferent run of form from superstar Antoine Griezmann (just four goals in the first 15 games) to start the season, Atleti managed to hang around in the title race thanks to their league-best 12 goals conceded. Griezmann was always likely to experience something of a World Cup hangover before eventually breaking out and resuming regular service as one of La Liga’s most prolific goalscorers.
Saturday might have been Griezmann’s re-emergence, as the 2018 World Cup winner bagged a brace, including the game-winning goal in the 80th minute, to help Atleti to a 3-2 victory over Real Valladolid.
Nikola Kalinic put the visitors 1-0 ahead before halftime and Griezmann converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-0 as soon as the second half began, but a goal conceded followed by an own goal capped off a dreadful six-minute spell for Diego Simeone’s side. Griezmann was there to save the day, though, popping up at the right place at the right time when Valladolid failed to clear a corner kick and gave Los Rojiblancos three clear-cut chance from inside 10 yards.
Real Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid scored their game-winning goal nearly 70 minutes earlier than their capital rivals, but their victory wasn’t anymore comfortable as Santiago Solari’s side held on for dear life — and were out-shot 11-9 — by Rayo Vallecano.
Karim Benzema bagged the game’s only goal in the 13th minute before he was forced off with an ankle injury in the 77th minute. Madrid were without Gareth Bale due to an ankle injury of his own. Los Blancos will now depart for the United Arab Emirates where they’ll face Japanese side Kashima Antlers in the semifinals of the Club World Cup on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad
Eibar 1-1 Valencia
Sunday’s La Liga schedule
Sevilla v. Girona — 6 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Real Betis — 10:15 a.m. ET
Huesca v. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Levante v. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET
A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…
[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool v. Man United at Anfield; Chelsea, Arsenal in action ]
Torino 0-1 Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo marked his Turin derby debut by scoring the game’s only goal, from the penalty spot, to extend Juventus’ winning streak to seven league games and open up an 11-point lead in the scudetto race.
Torino held strong for more than an hour, despite being forced to sub off starting goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu in the 20th minute. It was Sirigu’s replacement, Salvador Ichazo, who gave away the penalty when he brought down Mario Mandzukic in the 70th minute. Ichazo nearly made the save to preserve the scoreless draw for the home side, but Ronaldo’s powerful strike got past the Uruguayan to take his season tally to 11 goals (to go with five assists) in 16 appearance in league play.
Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese
Inter ended a seven-game winless skid (all competitions) with a narrow home victory over Udinese. Luciano Spaletti’s side left it even later than Juve, waiting until the 76th minute before Mauro Icardi converted from the penalty spot.
Despite the prolonged period of poor results, Inter have a six-point lead on fourth-place AC Milan, who have yet to play this weekend, but have tumbled to 14 points back of the runaway leaders.
Sunday’s Serie A schedule
SPAL v. Chievo — 6:30 a.m. ET
Fiorentina v. Empoli — 9 a.m. ET
Frosinone v. Sassuolo — 9 a.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Parma — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. Napoli — 12 p.m. ET
Roma v. Genoa — 2:30 p.m. ET
Robbie Earle braves it alone without Robbie Mustoe for this one, but is joined by members of NBC’s Premier League crew — Jen Calhoun, Mike Wolosz and Jorge Bustamante — to discuss Manchester City’s win over Everton (0:45), Tottenham’s last-gasp victory against Burnley (12:00) and hear from a true Bournemouth fan after their defeat to Wolves (19:15). Plus a look ahead to Liverpool v. Manchester United — can Jose Mourinho pull off one more special upset? (31:10)
Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.
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