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Brazil trashes Bolivia as Neymar scores 300th goal; CONMEBOL roundup

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NATAL, Brazil (AP) Brazil maintained its momentum in South America’s World Cup qualifiers by thrashing Bolivia 5-0 on Thursday, staying a point behind Uruguay which stayed top after defeating Venezuela.

Elsewhere, Copa America champions Chile sank even lower after losing 3-0 to Ecuador, while Colombia managed to beat Paraguay away 1-0 with a goal in the dying minutes. An Argentina team missing star Lionel Messi managed a draw at Peru.

BRAZIL

“Ole, ole, ole, ole… Tite! Tite!” It had been ages since a Brazil coach had the pleasure of being hailed as a hero by fans. But that happened on Thursday to Adenor Bacchi, universally known as Tite, only three games after getting the job and winning his third consecutive match for Brazil. Nearly all 30,000 supporters at the Arena das Dunas in sunny Natal, in the country’s Northeast, sounded excited about the 55-year-old from the beginning to the end of the hammering of the Bolivians.

The goals were scored by Neymar (10), Philippe Coutinho (25), Filipe Luis (38), Gabriel Jesus (44) and Roberto Firmino (75). Brazil’s goalkeeper Alison barely touched the ball during the entire game.

Asked about the reaction of fans in the post-match press conference, Tite held the tears and looked above as he repeated “thank you.”

Before Tite took over, Brazil wasn’t even among the top four positions in South America’s qualifying standings – each of which is worth an automatic place at the World Cup in Russia. After victories over Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia, Brazil is second in the table with 18 points, one behind leaders Uruguay. Bolivia is 9th with seven points.

If Tite’s side beats Venezuela away and Uruguay fails to win at Colombia next week, the now excited Brazilian supporters that had feared the humiliation of not even qualifying for the World Cup will instead see their team in number one position.

“We feel that the atmosphere here has changed for the better,” right-back Dani Alves said at the end of the match, without mentioning Tite’s predecessor Dunga.

Barcelona star Neymar delivered a great performance in the 65 minutes he was on the pitch before he left with a bleeding forehead caused by a Bolivian elbow. He scored the opening goal, repeatedly dribbled through Bolivia’s defense, irritated the opposition but also picked his third yellow card, which suspends him from Tuesday’s clash against Venezuela, in Merida.

That card, however, makes Neymar an almost sure presence in the derby against Argentina in Belo Horizonte on Nov.10.

Neymar’s goal was the 300th of his career, according with the Brazilian Football Confederation. These figures include all those he scored for Brazil, Santos and Barcelona as a professional since 2009. He also surpassed midfielder Zico as the 4th top goalscorer in Brazil’s history. Now Neymar only trails Romario (56), Ronaldo (67) and Pele (95). The Barcelona star is 24 years-old.

The easy win came after some initial difficulties for coach Tite, who lost Real Madrid’s left-winger Marcelo and midfielder Casemiro to injury and Guanghzhou Evergrande’s midfielder Paulinho to suspension. He also took a risk in changing Chelsea winger Willian for Liverpool’s “magician” Coutinho, but the diminutive playmaker was one of the best on the pitch on Thursday.

ARGENTINA

No Lionel Messi meant no party for Argentina at Peru. After leading twice, Argentina conceded a late goal to the hosts which resulted in a draw. New coach Edgardo Bauza struggled to make his midfield more fluent and Manchester City’s striker Sergio Aguero failed to lead the team in Messi’s absence. Argentina’s goals were scored by Funes Mori (15) and Gonzalo Higuain (77). Peru initially equalized through Paolo Guerrero (58) and again with a penalty converted by Christian Cueva. Now Argentina is 5th in the standings with 16 points, the same number of Ecuador and Colombia. The Argentinians are behind in the amount of victories and goal difference. Peru is in 8th position with eight points.

URUGUAY

South American qualifying leader Uruguay was not surprised by last-place Venezuela in Montevideo and won 3-0 in convincing fashion. Only weeks ago Venezuela nearly beat Argentina, but the Uruguayans didn’t offer a chance and won with goals scored by Nicolas Lodeiro (28), Edinson Cavani (46 and 79). Uruguay has 19 points and Venezuela stays last with their two. Now Uruguay will try to hold on to their lead in Colombia next week.

CHILE

Copa America champions Chile had yet another embarrassing result losing 3-0 to Ecuador in Quito. It could have been much more if the hosts had their finishing right in the second half. Now Ecuador has 16 points in third place, five more than Chile, which is 7th. The Chileans are five points behind the spot that would allow them to be in a playoff for a World Cup placement. Antonio Valencia (18), Cristian Ramirez (23) and Felipe Caicedo (46) scored the Ecuadorian goals.

Chile could well need the three points they are seeking from the 0-0 home draw with Bolivia in September. Chile’s federation claimed that Bolivia fielded an ineligible player, defender Nelson Cabrera.

The strangest incident of the evening was in Ecuador’s Enner Valencia being removed in an ambulance after an apparent injury. Local media said police officials could have arrested the Everton player in the end of the match for not paying alimony.

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COLOMBIA

Edwin Cardona scored the 90th minute winner against Paraguay at the Defensores del Chaco stadium, in Asuncion. The result gives a breather to the Colombians, who now have 16 points in fourth place against 12 of the Paraguayans, who will stay in sixth place.

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

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Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Brescia 3-0 Lecce

Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Hertha’s under-16s stop playing after alleged racist abuse

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team stopped playing a game at regional rival Auerbach after its players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse from their opponents on Saturday.

The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that “several players from our team were racially abused by their opposing players.”

Hertha officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form,” the club said.

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game.”

On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”

Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on Dec. 6.

“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old Ngankam told broadcaster MDR.

Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.

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

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Sociedad hold leaders Barcelona to draw (video)

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A stunning draw from top-of-the-table Barcelona highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona

If Real Madrid manages to walk away from Mestalla with three points, they’ll dethrone nemesis Barcelona and become clear-cut leaders of La Liga.

Just days before El Clasico itself, a rare 2-2 draw from Barcelona against hosts Real Sociedad is the reason behind Los Blancos’ prime opportunity.

 

Former Borussia Dortmund starlet Alexander Isak tapped in his fourth goal of the season in the 62nd minute, leveling the score for Sociedad and sending the home fans into a frenzy.

In true Barcelona fashion, Real Sociedad, ironically hit the ground running first. 

After earning a foul inside the box from a corner kick set piece, Reala captain Mikel Oyarzabal converted from the spot, putting Sociedad, who have exceeded expectations this season under first-year manager Imanol Alguacil, up against the defending champions. 

It wouldn’t take long before the visitors responded, however.

A familiar face and experienced goalscorer at Anoeta, it was the ideal scenario for Antoine Griezmann to shake off some pressure that has been a key talking point surrounding the Frenchman lately. Darting inside the box with only Alex Remiro to beat, No. 17 – like in the old days – carefully chipped the ball over Remiro and into the back of the net the ball wandered. 

If the second half indicated anything early on it was that it was going to be difficult for Barcelona to drop points on Saturday. Unselfish as ever before, Lionel Messi laid off the ball to an unmarked Luis Suarez, who his team up 2-1 four minutes into the second half.

A lack of control of possession and, most notably, an unstable defensive line, would end up costing Barcelona two points.

Next for Barcelona is the game of the season: a league bout against Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad travel to Becerril in the second round of Copa del Rey. 

Elsewhere in La Liga

Atletico Madrid 2-0 Osasuna

Granada 1-2 Levante

Atheltic Bilbao 0-0 Eibar

South Florida officials seeking more international soccer

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) More than two dozen political leaders in South Florida have written letters to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board of directors, urging them to allow top-tier international matches to take place in the Miami region.

Relevent Sports, the soccer-promoting group owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, filed suit against the USSF earlier this year saying that the sport’s governing body in this country was helping to prevent them from hosting certain matches.

The letters were released Friday to media outlets, including The Associated Press.

The USSF did not respond to a request for comment.

Ross’ group and top Spanish league La Liga have been working for some time to bring a regular-season match to Hard Rock Stadium, the facility Ross owns and is the Dolphins’ home.

The politicians – ranging from city mayors, county mayors, county commissioners and one state Senator – all essentially said the same thing, that bringing major international soccer to South Florida only will help the region’s tourist-dependent economy.

“Doing so will demonstrate a genuine commitment to our communities and the growth of the game, which you, as the United States Soccer Federation, are charged with promoting,” wrote Dean Trantalis, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. That’s the city where David Beckham’s new MLS team, Inter Miami, will begin play next March.