La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona keep Real Madrid close; Roma fall further behind Juventus

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Barcelona 5-0 Cordoba

Luis Suarez finally got himself on the scoresheet with his much-anticipated first La Liga goal as Barcelona routed Cordoba at Camp Nou on Saturday. Suarez’s first league tally — he has scored twice in the UEFA Champions League — came in the 53th minute when Pedro Rodriguez squared a pass to the Uruguayan just outside the six-yard box. Suarez nutmegged the goalkeeper and wheeled away in relieved celebration.

Pedro opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes when the Spaniard got onto the end of an Ivan Rakitic through ball, rounded the ‘keeper and fired into the back of the net. Gerard Pique added a third in the 80th minute before Lionel Messi got in on the action and grabbed himself a nine-minute brace in the game’s final minutes.

Messi’s first was a simple rebound through traffic from 14 yards that found its way into the upper corner, but it was his 91st-minute goal that wowed the Catalan crowd. All in one motion, the Argentinian settled the ball from chest-height using his left foot, spun himself around to face the goal and fired a right-footed shot just inside the near post.

Eibar 0-1 Valencia

Valencia continued their pursuit of Atletico Madrid for La Liga’s third and final Champions League place with a 1-0 win away to league newcomers Eibar. Paco Alcacer scored the game’s only goal, a tap-in from less than a yard out, in the 31st minute to move Los Che just within a single point of Atletico, who visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday (3 pm ET).

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 1-1 Real Sociedad
Rayo Vallecano 1-3 Espanyol


source: Getty Images
AS Roma & AC Milan

Roma 0-0 AC Milan

AS Roma failed to keep pace with Serie A leaders Juventus, who beat Cagliari, 3-1, on Thursday, as the Giallorossi struggled to a 0-0 draw with seventh-placed AC Milan (25 points). Pablo Armero was sent off after 70 minutes, but Roma failed to capitalize on the man-advantage in a game in which they held 62 percent of possession and outshot the Rossoneri16-9.

With a win, Roma would have remained just a point behind Juventus (39 points) in the chase for the league title, but instead find themselves three points off the leaders heading into the Serie A’s two-week winter break.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule is highlighted by Inter Milan vs. Lazio (2:45 pm ET) and Champions League-chasing Sampdoria vs. Udinese (9 am ET).

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-1 Cesena

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:

Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.

The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes: