USA 2-0 Panama: Much improved performance sees USMNT snap winless streak

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The U.S. national team snapped its frustrating five-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory over Panama at StubHub Center on Sunday, giving Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT just its second victory since the 2014 World Cup.

[ Follow: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

The stars of the show turned out to be two players who’ve not participated in many January camps and friendlies in recent years as USMNT regulars Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey only returned to Major League Soccer within the last 18 months. Their respective club situations aside, it’s a very welcome sight to see, the USMNT’s two biggest stars kicking off an hugely important 2015 with strong performances.

The first chance of the game fell the way of Panama in the 14th minute, as Eric Davis got behind the USMNT backline and squared himself up with Nick Rimando, but the American goalkeeper made himself big and made the save.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Bradley, Dempsey star vs. Panama, but who else improved their stock? ]

The USMNT enjoyed a fruitful spell of possession in Panama’s defensive third right around the 20-minute mark as Jozy Altidore won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, Gyasi Zardes provided a pair of quality crosses into the middle of the box from the left and Michael Bradley’s in-swinging corner kick cause Panamanian goalkeeper Jaime Penedo all sorts of trouble at the near post.

Panama nearly broke that spell with a great chance of their own as Blas Perez got onto the end of a through ball 10 yards from goal, but Brek Shea was quick to dive in and block Perez’s shot.

Michael Bradley put the USMNT on top with an olimpico in the 27th minute. Delivering a corner kick from the left side of attack, Bradley’s superb set piece delivery continued as his shot floated and floated toward the back post, eluding the heads of defenders and attackers a like, forcing Penedo to backpedal and backpedal, and nestling itself into the upper-90 for the game’s opening goal.

[ WATCH: Bradley’s olimpico puts the USA up 1-0 ]

Clint Dempsey, perhaps with only his second or third touch of the game, double the USMNT’s lead in the 37th minute. Gyasi Zardes made a surging run through the heart of midfield, slipped a perfectly weighted through ball to Dempsey as he split the Panamanian backline. Dempsey’s first and second touches were a tricky piece of footwork to skirt one defender and the goalkeeper, and roll the ball over the goal line.

source: Getty ImagesPerez had a golden opportunity to pull one back for Panama in the 41st minute as he suddenly found himself one-on-one against Rimando after a slip by Matt Besler, but Perez smashed his shot well wide of the near post.

As the game opened up a bit, the USMNT counter-attack came to the forefront as Bradley nearly bagged a brace in the 43rd minute. Atidore made a driving run with the ball down the left wing, crossed to Zardes at the top of the penalty area. Zardes chested the ball down, into the path of the late-arriving Bradley who took a powerful shot on the half-volley from 20 yards out. The shot stayed low and Penedo did well to trap and hold the blistering shot.

[ THREE THINGS: What we learned from USA 2-0 Panama ]

The game’s second half provided a pace familiar to that of the first half, but was seriously lacking in terms of quality, connection of passes and chances created.

Klinsmann looked to his bench in the second half, handing USMNT debuts to FC Dallas Matt Hedges and D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen, a second USMNT cap to Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil, and an additional 15 minutes of game time to New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen.

The USMNT now takes a break until March 25 (Denmark) and March 31 (Switzerland) as players return to — in many cases — their MLS clubs for preseason and the start of the 2015 season. The 2015 Gold Cup is 109 days away.

LINEUP

USA: Nick Rimando (Sean Johnson 46′), DeAndre Yedlin (Matt Hedges 72′), Jermaine Jones, Matt Besler, Brek Shea, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud (Perry Kitchen 72′), Gyasi Zardes, Clint Dempsey (Luis Gil 81′), Miguel Ibarra (Lee Nguyen 79′), Jozy Altidore (Chris Wondolowski 46′)

Goals: Bradley (27′), Dempsey (37′)

Dortmund hammer Freiburg but gain no ground on Bayern

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Borussia Dortmund moved back within one point of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich with a 4-0 win against Freiburg on Sunday.

[ LA LIGA: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd ]

Dortmund went ahead in the 11th minute when 19-year-old Jadon Sancho scored from the six-yard box after a run by Marco Reus. It was Sancho’s 11th Bundesliga goal this season.

Dortmund added three after the interval with goals from Reus, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer with a penalty.

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

In the day’s other game, Hertha Berlin was held 0-0 at home by bottom side Hannover, which ended an eight-game losing streak.

On Saturday, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 1-0.

With four rounds left, Bayern leads with 70 points, Dortmund has 69 and Leipzig is third with 61.

La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of 2nd

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

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.