La Liga and Serie A roundup: Chicharito scores twice in Real Madrid victory, Napoli downs Sampdoria

2 Comments

The season’s end of club soccer in Europe is drawing to a close with many sides still inging for better standing in their league tables.

In Spain and Italy, several matches occurred on Sunday in each country’s top-flight, and some had implications in the quest for late-year excellence.

Real Madrid 4-2 Celta Vigo: Cristiano Ronaldo was on the pitch for Real Madrid and was never substituted off, but he wasn’t necessarily the focal point of Los Blancos‘ third consecutive win. It was Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who started the game and scored half of Real’s total to give him a four goals in the past four games. Hernandez’s first arrived as the consequence of some crafty interplay with young Colombian star James Rodriguez (also a scorer in this one), and the next one was a fine finish from Sergio Ramos’ assist. Toni Kroos’ long-range effort in the 16th minute leveled the score following Nolito’s game-opener. To make the score 2-2, Santi Mina netted an equalizer from his strike that rebounded off the post in the 28th minute.

[RELATED: Saturday’s roundup]

Sevilla 2-0 Rayo: Sevilla is doing their best to qualify for the Champions League next season, and this win over 11th place Rayo has ushered them closer to that goal. Defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra buried the first goal of the contest in the 16th minute when Diogo Figueiras set him up, and two minutes prior to the half, Daniel Carrico headed Denis Suarez’s cross into the net’s corner for the 2-0 advantage. Rayo pushed hard to generate some threatening offensive possession in the second half, and Gael Kakuta and Alejandro Pozuelo had endeavors that could’ve changed the game. Still, it was clear that Sevilla, now one point ahead of fifth-place Valencia and six points behind third-place Atletico Madrid, had more to fight for.

Other La Liga results from today

Malaga 1-1 Deportivo

Almeria 2-0 Eibar

 

Results from Saturday

Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona

Getafe CF 0-1 Levante

Real Sociedad 0-0 Villarreal

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Elche


 

Napoli 4-2 Sampdoria: An own-goal from Napoli center back Raúl Albiol gave Sampdoria the early 12th-minute lead and stunned the home supporters at the Stadio San Paolo. But the Little Donkeys, who are vying for the best finish possible with several other squads in Serie A’s top five, turned the tide rapidly. In the 31st minute, Il Doria goalkeeper Manolo Gabbiadini regretfully let in Napoli’s opener from Manolo Gabbiadini, and three minutes later, Gabbiadini fed Gonzalo Higuaín for the 2-1 lead. Lorenzo Insigne’s goal, a late effort from Sampdoria’s Luis Muriel and a penalty-kick conversion from Higuaín wrapped up the scoring, as Napoli is currently three points away from Lazio in second place.

Parma 1-0 Palermo: Parma had braved a season of financial doubt, amid reports that the club, having transportation issues and a short supply of hot water, declared bankruptcy in March. Situated deep in the table at last place, holding 16 total points on the season, little has been expected of the Crusaders. Nonetheless, based on a 1-0 victory over mid-table Palermo, it appears the Italian bottom dwellers are not calling it quits quite yet. When Antonio Nocerino buried the penalty kick after Massimo Gobbi was hauled down in the box, Parma had grabbed the key advantage needed to walk away with a confidence boosting victory, but the outfit is fifteen points away from escaping demotion with just six games left.

Other Serie A results from today

Atalanta 2-2 Empoli

Torino 2-1 Juventus (first derby win in 20 years)

Fiorentina 1-3 Cagliari

Lazio 1-1 Chievo

Verona 3-2 Sassuolo

Genoa 3-1 Cesena

 

Results from Saturday

Udinese 2-1 Milan

Inter Milan 2-1 Roma

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.

Follow Live: Africa Cup of Nations – Group play reaches round 2

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The first round of group stage matches is complete and now the slate reracks for teams to truly take control of their Africa Cup of Nations destiny.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

Host nation Egypt takes the field for a second time as they meet Democratic Republic of Congo in the late match in Cairo, while Nigeria has the chance to secure advancement as they play Guinea, and Uganda can push Zimbabwe to the brink of elimination.

Egypt and Uganda can each secure passage to the knockout stage through Group A if both should win, while a loss for either side would complicate matters.The host nation will be looking for a better attacking display after Mohamed Salah was isolated in the narrow opening round win over Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Congo DR likely did not expect to be facing elimination this early, with a team that sports West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, former Premier League midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, and Porto’s Chancel Mbemba.

In Group B, Nigeria can secure passage to the knockout phase with a win. The clear dominant side in a collection of countries that includes Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi, Nigeria looked sluggish in its opener and will require a more complete attacking display to convince supporters they can challenge for the Cup.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Wednesday, June 26

Group A
Uganda v. Zimbabwe – 1 p.m. ET
Egypt v. Congo DR – 4 p.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Guinea – 10:30 a.m. ET