Aston Villa 3-3 Queens Park Rangers: Benteke hat-trick keeps Villa above the drop (video)

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Six goals were scored in a wild 90 minutes of play at Villa Park as Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers drew 3-3.

QPR came back from 2-1 down to take a 3-2 lead, but Christian Benteke completed his hat-trick in the final ten minutes to dash the R’s hopes of back-to-back wins.

With the draw, Aston Villa sit 16th on the table, three points above relegation. Queens Park Rangers remain in the drop zone, two points behind Hull City with one more match played.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

The goals came quickly, as both sides traded tallies within the opening ten minutes. QPR got on the board first as Matty Phillips put the visitors ahead. Leandro Bacuna failed to clear the box for Villa, as Bobby Zamora gained control and cut to his left. Zamora threw in a cross to Phillips who found himself wide open at the back post, easily heading past Brad Guzan.

But just three minutes later Villa drew even as Christian Benteke’s deflected shot dropped in over a helpless Robert Green. The Belgian striker took the ball down the left wing before cutting inside to his right foot and firing a shot on goal. The strike deflected off Mauricio Isla, leaving Green no chance to make a save.

[ RELATED: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

In the 32nd minute it was Benteke again for Villa, adding to his tally and giving Tim Sherwood’s side the lead. Gabriel Agbonlahor sent Benteke through, as the striker had no pressure and moved in one-on-one with Robert Green. Benteke cooly slotted home for his second of the half giving Villa the lead heading into the dressing room.

source: AP
Christian Benteke now has seven goals in his past five Premier League appearances.

Aston Villa came out after the break and controlled the early play, but it was Queens Park Rangers who found an equalizer in the 55th minute. Matty Phillips whipped in a corner kick that found the head of Clint Hill, as the 36-year-old scored the first Premier League goal of his career. An outstretched Brad Guzan couldn’t reach the header, as there was no defender on the far post to help the goalkeeper off the corner.

It looked like the “great escape” was in full effect for QPR when Charlie Austin put the R’s ahead in the 78th minute. Phillips was involved again, beating his defender before finding Austin in the box. QPR’s leading goal scorer made no mistake with the cross to fire Chris Ramsey’s men into the lead.

But the night belonged to Christian Benteke, who completed his hat-trick just five minutes after Villa went behind. With a free kick just outside the box, Benteke curled a beautiful strike over the wall and off the near post, saving a point for Aston Villa and keeping the club above the drop zone.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna (Lowton 75′), Vlaar, Clark, Richardson, Cleverley (N’Zogbia 81′), Delph, Sanchez, Grealish (Cole 71′), Agbonlahor, Benteke

Goals: Benteke (10′, 33′, 83′)

Queens Park Rangers: Green, Isla (Henry 52′), Onuoha, Caulker, Hill, Phillips, Sandro (Doughty 70′), Barton, Kranjcar (Traore 52′), Austin, Zamora

Goals: Phillips (7′), Hill (55′), Austin (78′)

Police enter headquarters of Spanish club Malaga

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) Police entered the headquarters of Spanish club Malaga on Wednesday to seize documents related to a court case involving the second-division team.

[ MORE: Christian Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter “still confident” ]

Authorities did not release further details because the search-and-seizure action was part of an investigation being conducted under secrecy.

Police would not confirm Spanish media reports that the action was about a case in which Qatari owner Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani is being sued by minority owners over alleged administrative irregularities.

[ MORE: Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale ]

Al-Thani took over the club in 2010.

Malaga last month fired coach Victor Sanchez del Amo after an intimate video was released online.

The team from southern Spain is 16th in the 22-team second-division standings.

Bale’s agent denies loan reports; ‘not many clubs can afford him’

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Gareth Bale‘s agent Jonathan Barnett has called recent reports claiming the Real Madrid superstar could be loaned elsewhere “ridiculous” on the basis that “there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

[ MORE: Daniel Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Bale ]

Bale has reportedly been unhappy in Madrid and at odds with manager Zinedine Zidane, leading to months of speculation that he could leave the Santiago Bernabeu. However, due to his nearly $600,000-per-week wages, very few — if any — clubs in the world can afford his wages, let alone the transfer fee required as well.

Therefore, a loan move would seem to make sense, only Barnett seems to be offended that a player of Bale’s caliber would ever be discussed as a loan candidate — quotes from the BBC:

“Why would one of the best players on Earth go on loan? That’s ridiculous. At the moment, he is going to be playing football for Real Madrid and he has got two and a half years left on his contract.

“He is happy and hopefully he will win a couple of more things with Real Madrid.”

“Things can change, but loans are ridiculous and there are not many clubs that can afford him anyway.”

Bale’s contract runs through the summer of 2022. He has scored just two goals in nine league games this season.

Bayern signs Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Spain right back Alvaro Odriozola on loan from Real Madrid on Wednesday to help ease its defensive worries after a spate of injuries.

[ MORE: Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter “still confident” ]

The Bavarian powerhouse said the 24-year-old Odriozola signed a deal to the end of the season after successfully passing a medical examination.

“We decided to fulfill our head coach Hansi Flick’s wish to strengthen the defense and decided for Alvaro Odriozola,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “We’re very happy with the transfer and thank the management at Real Madrid for the very friendly and cooperative talks.”

Bayern defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez are out with injuries and 23-year-old Benjamin Pavard — a center back — had been filling in at right back. Odriozola’s arrival will free the French player to return to his usual position.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Madrid paid a reported $33 million to sign Odriozola from Real Sociedad in 2018, but the winger has barely played since. He made only four league appearances this season, with Dani Carvajal preferred at right back.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane gave the go-ahead for Odriozola’s transfer on Tuesday. Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao were also reportedly interested.

Odriozola has one goal in four appearances for Spain.

Bayern is hoping to claw back a four-point deficit on Bundesliga leader Leipzig to claim a record-extending eighth straight title.

Eriksen holds talks with Levy; Inter ‘still confident in this deal’

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Christian Eriksen met with chairman Daniel Levy on Tuesday in his latest attempt to secure his Tottenham Hotspur exit during the January transfer window, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Levy reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale ]

Eriksen already has a pre-contract agreement with Inter Milan in place, but the Danish playmaker and the Serie A club are hopeful of completing the signing this month. Inter submitted a $14.5-million bid (plus bonuses) for Eriksen earlier this week, but Levy is said to be holding out for his $22-million valuation, fully guaranteed, of the player.

Eriksen’s agent is also expected to meet with Levy following Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold) in yet another attempt to broker a deal between the two clubs.

[ MORE: Cavani “will go to Atletico Madrid” if PSG let him leave ]

Inter Milan chief executive Giuseppe Marotta remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached this month, as he told Sky Italia, “We’re waiting and we’re still confident in this deal.”