Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s public spat with a mayor after game postponed

2 Comments

MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s only opponent this week has been off the field.

Unable to play over the weekend because its Spanish league game at Celta Vigo was postponed by bad weather, Real Madrid traded blows with a local mayor who accused it of improperly pressuring to play the game despite security concerns.

Upset with the mayor’s comments, Madrid released an official note condemning the “inappropriate” and “totally inaccurate” statements.

Sunday’s match was called off after Vigo authorities deemed Balaidos Stadium unsafe for spectators because of damage caused to the roof by heavy wind.

“I expected cooperation from a team of Madrid’s grandiosity, not pressure,” Vigo Mayor Abel Caballero said Monday. “It’s only a football match. Even for Madrid, it’s only a football match. In my opinion, there was an improper controversy prompted by Real Madrid.”

The postponement created problems for Madrid because of an already tight schedule that includes decisive games in the Spanish league and in the last 16 of the Champions League. The club already had a game in hand in the league, at Valencia, because of its participation at the Club World Cup in December.

“Real Madrid regrets the unfortunate statements made by the mayor of Vigo, in which he states that this club disregarded the security measures required for the (match) to go ahead,” the club said. “Not only are the mayor’s comments inappropriate, they are also totally inaccurate, because at no point in time did Real Madrid question the security measures in place at Balaidos.”

Madrid said it merely proposed alternatives to avoid having the game postponed, including closing the affected seating section under the damaged roof and looking at playing at a nearby stadium.

“These proposals were made with a view to avoiding the postponement of the fixture from negatively impacting upon the four competitions, given the knock-on effect it would cause between them, as well as the massive financial losses suffered by television channels from around the world, which will have an impact on future tenders for the sale of broadcasting rights,” Real Madrid said.

Celta was also affected by the postponement because it is playing in the Europa League and in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. Celta was expected to use its second-stringers against Madrid in the league, however, so a new date could play into its advantage.

“Madrid isn’t happy because we eliminated them in the Copa (quarterfinals),” Caballero told the Spanish sports daily Marca on Tuesday.

Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo said the club obviously would rather play a team other than Madrid, but dismissed the notion that the game was called off because of that.

“The game would have been suspended regardless of the opponent because it was unsafe for the fans,” Berizzo said. “I still don’t have the ability to make it rain.”

Celta’s opponent in the Copa del Rey, Alaves, also complained of the game’s postponement, saying it gave its rival an unfair advantage because it didn’t have to play any matches after last week’s first leg in Vigo, which ended 0-0. It wanted Wednesday’s second leg played at a different date so “both teams would play under equal conditions.” Its demand was not granted.

The Spanish league defended all the decisions taken regarding the game in Vigo, saying they were based on requests made by local authorities and with the safety of players and public in mind.

“Abel Caballero said the game couldn’t be played and gave his reasons for it,” league president Javier Tebas told the daily AS. “Those who have doubts about the mayor’s decision can make a complaint against him.”

The match between Celta and Madrid wasn’t the only one that had to be suspended because of bad weather in northern Spain. Friday’s match between Deportivo La Coruna and Real Betis also had to be called off because of damage caused by heavy wind at Deportivo’s Riazor Stadium.

The games have not yet been rescheduled.

“The calendar is very tight,” Tebas said. “But we will find a solution.”

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

AP Photo/John Minchillo
Leave a comment

Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow