La Liga & Serie A roundup: Atletico crush Real in Madrid derby; Juventus cruise vs. AC Milan

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

Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid

It had been five meetings (all competitions) since Real Madrid last beat Atletico Madrid (last season’s Champions League final), so it should come as little surprise that Atletico extended that streak to six games on Saturday. The part that shocked the world about their latest Madrid derby triumph, though, was the ease with with Diego Simeone’s men dominated Madrid’s “top” club.

Despite holding 55 percent of possession, Real took just four shots on the afternoon (one on target), to Atletico’s 17 and eight. Cristiano Ronaldo even returned from his two-game suspension, joining Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale across the Real frontline. It simply did not matter.

Iker Casillas’ latest blunder cost Real the game’s first goal as Tiago’s tame effort squirted under the beleaguered goalkeeper in the 14th minute. Atletico wasted little time in going after a second goal, doubling their lead on a spectacular overhead kick by Saul Niguez (see below link for video) in the 18th minute. Antoine Griezmann (12th La Liga goal) and Mario Mandzukic (11th) completed scoring in the second half to secure yet another famous Madrid derby victory for Los Rojiblancos.

With their first defeat in six league games, Real stay on 54 points, four ahead of Barcelona (50), who play on Sunday, and Atletico (50).

[ WATCH: Saul Niguez with the spectacular overhead kick for 2-0 ]

Villarreal 2-0 Granada

Villarreal (41 points) strengthened their present hold on sixth place in La Liga (Europa League place) and continued their chase of a Champions League place (fourth, currently Sevilla, 42 points) with a no-nonsense performance against 18th-placed Granada.

Goals by Mateo Musacchio (30th minute) and Gerard Moreno (92nd) were enough to give El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine) all three points.

Levante 4-1 Malaga

Levante’s (19 points) fight to avoid relegation took a massive step forward on Saturday as Les Granotes brushed seventh-placed Malaga aside. Levante, who were 20th out of 20 teams at kickoff, vaulted all the way over the other two relegation places and into 17th at the end of day.

David Barral scored his second, third and fourth league goals (26th minute, 37th, 62nd) of the season, including two from the penalty spot, after Malaga’s Juanmi put the visitors ahead after 24 minutes. Kalu Uche completed the scoring on 75 minutes, dropping Cordoba, who play on Sunday, into 18th place.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 1-1 Celta Vigo

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Cordoba vs. Almeria (6 am ET)
Getafe vs. Sevilla (11 am ET)
Espanyol vs. Valencia (1 pm ET)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona (3 pm ET)

source: Getty ImagesJuventus 3-1 AC Milan

Juventus (53 points) went 10 points clear of second-placed Roma with a comfortable 3-1 victory over floundering AC Milan (10th, 29 points) on Saturday.

Carlos Tevez got the three-time defending champions off to a quick start with a slotted finish (14th league goal) past Diego Lopez in the 14th minute. Milan hit back with an equalizer as Luca Antonelli headed home a corner kick in the 28th minute.

The 1-1 scoreline didn’t last for long, though, as Leonardo Bonucci redirected a poorly cleared corner kick past Lopez in the 31st minute. Spanish forward Alvaro Morata finished the scoring when he knocked home a rebound off the past.

Following their latest defeat, AC Milan have collected just five points (one win, two draws) in their last seven Serie A games.

Elsewere in Serie A

Hallas Verona 1-3 Torino

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Fiorentina vs. Atalanta (6:30 am ET)
Empoli vs. Cesena (9 am ET)
Cagliari vs. Roma (9 am ET)
Sampdoria vs. Sassuolo (9 am ET)
Napoli vs. Udinese (9 am ET)
Parma vs. Chievo (PPD — heavy snow)
Inter Milan vs. Palermo (2:45 pm ET)

Portland beats Orlando to win MLS is Back championship

MLS is Back
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Soaked in sweat and doused in water, the Portland Timbers hoisted the MLS is Back trophy at midfield and then headed toward a giant TV screen filled with fans cheering from afar.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

It was a huge Zoom party. It might just be the way to celebrate championships in 2020.

Dario Zuparic’s first goal of the season gave Portland a 2-1 victory against Orlando in Major League Soccer’s return tournament finale Tuesday night, capping a month-long event that showed sports can be played safely inside a bubble.

“I always think the more difficult the fight is the more beautiful the victory is at the end,” said Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, who scored the game’s first goal.

Orlando was slow to react to Diego Valeri’s corner kick in the 66th minute, allowing Eryk Williamson to collect the ball, change direction and take a shot that Jeremy Ebobisse deflected to Zuparic’s feet. Zuparic didn’t have to do much to get it by Pedro “The Octopus” Gallese, who had made two fantastic saves in the lead-up to the corner kick.

The goal started the celebration on Portland’s sideline and sent Orlando into panic mode. The Lions had a chance in the closing minutes, but failed to get the equalizer.

“It’s a group of players in a lot of pain right now,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said. “Things didn’t bounce our way. We made a couple of mistakes.”

The Timbers, who spent 39 days in the MLS bubble and remained on West Coast time, hugged and danced after the final whistle. They raised the silver trophy while hooting and hollering. But the lasting image will be players and coaches waving at a camera and reaching hundreds back home.

It ended a wild month for the MLS, which managed to play 51 matches in 45 days at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.

No family. No friends. No fans.

But it was by most accounts a rousing success, especially considering how it started. FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw days before the start because of positive coronavirus tests.

Players, coaches and support personnel were tested regularly inside the MLS bubble. The league reported just two positives out of nearly 35,000 tests following the initial setbacks that threatened to derail a tournament that came with a $1.1 million purse.

“We just told ourselves we need to make it worth it,” Mabiala said, adding that his son has been calling, crying and clamoring for him to come home in recent days.

Portland will get $328,000 in prize money to split. The Timbers also earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, their first since 2016.

Orlando settled for $150,000 to share.

Orlando’s appearance in the finale was a surprise considering the team finished 11th out of 12 in the East last season and fired coach James O’Connor. Pareja took over in 2020 and made an immediate impact.

Pareja convinced his players, including star Nani, to settle into the bubble several days early. They won the tournament opener, a group-stage victory against Miami, and ended up spending nearly seven weeks quarantined in the bubble.

Portland’s experience – the Timbers won the MLS title in 2015 and were runners-up two years ago – showed in the finale.

Portland’s first shot on goal found the back of the net. Valeri delivered a perfectly placed free kick into the box that Mabiala headed past Gallese in the 27th minute. It was Valeri’s 93rd assist with the Timbers.

But considering Portland has managed just three clean sheets in its last 23 matches, it was no surprise to see a defensive breakdown just a few minutes later.

Nani worked the ball down the left side following a turnover and created enough room to get a crosser into the box. Mauricio Pereyra got a foot on the ball and then took advantage of a fallen defender to tie the match.

The equalizer came shortly after Portland’s Sebastian Blanco exchanged words with Pareja during a hydration break. Referees stepped between them, and they later apologized and hugged it out.

The league resumes its regular season Wednesday night with Dallas playing at Nashville. The league’s 26 teams will play 18 games apiece. A majority of the games will be played without fans because of local regulations. Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses to limit outside contact.

“We have to see if it works,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “If it does, we go through with it. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to adjust.”

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

Nuno Wolves
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Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.

Europa League: Wolves knocked out by late Sevilla winner

Europa League Wolves
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Europa League: Wolves’ magical run through the Europa League came to an end on Tuesday, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by UEL specialists Sevilla.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Sevilla

Sevilla were quite comfortably the better side on the night, the side with the vast majority of the scoring chances, and thoroughly deserving semifinalists. Julen Lopetegui’s side will face Manchester United in the semis on Sunday.

It didn’t come easily for Sevilla, though. The game remained level at 0-0 for 87 minutes, until Lucas Ocampos rose above the crowd to head home his 16th goal of the season in the 88th minute.

Wolves had the game’s first — and virtually their only — chance to go ahead inside the first quarter-hour, but Raul Jimenez was denied from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. The real story here, however, is the ease with which Adama Traore left the pack behind and dribbled the ball 81 yards before Diego Carlos cut him down from behind.

Jimenez’s blunder from the spot was one of just two shots on target — both by Jimenez — that Wolves could muster in the game.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

Sevilla began to ramp up the pressure after halftime and went dangerously close to breaking the deadlock just after the hour mark, as Youssef En-Nesyri weaved his way through traffic inside the penalty area before firing a low strike on goal. Fortunately for Wolves, Rui Patricio was all over and denied En-Nesyri his wondergoal.

Ever Banega forced Patricio to make a vital save of his curling free kick in the 77th minute, but again the Portuguese was up to the challenge. He scrambled across goal and rose high to get a hand on the ball and push it over the crossbar.

Shakhtar Donetsk thrashed Basel 4-1 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. They will face Inter Milan in the second semifinal next Monday.

Other Europa League scores

Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 Basel
Man United 1-0 Copenhagen (Monday)
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Monday)

Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David

Lille sign Jonathan David
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Lille sign Jonathan David: Lille announced on Tuesday their signing of Canadian star Jonathan David from Belgian side Gent for a reported transfer fee of $35 million.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

The fee paid is a record not only for a Canadian player, but also makes David Lille’s club-record signing and the most expensive player ever sold by a Belgian club.

David had been linked with a move to dozens of clubs across Europe, including a handful of Premier League sides, in recent weeks but it would appear that Lille’s recent success with young players starring in the first team, before selling them to those bigger European sides for massive profits, was an important factor in David’s decision to move to Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Hojbjerg from Southampton; Walker-Peters to Saints ]

The 20-year-old operates predominantly as a center forward but has, on rare occasions, played as a second striker underneath the main man. David racked up 48 goals and 20 assists in his two seasons at Gent, including a number of standout performances in the Europa League.