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Ligue 1 roundup: PSG grab late win to open early 6-point lead

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PARIS (AP) On a frustrating day for the world’s two most expensive players, and with the club’s top scorer rested, it was unheralded defender Thomas Meunier who got Paris Saint-Germain’s goals in a 2-1 win at Dijon on Saturday.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe cost PSG a combined $478 million when they joined in the offseason. They had an off day, although Mbappe made some amends by setting up Meunier’s winner in the second minute of injury time.

It was the attack-minded right back’s fourth goal in four games, including one for Belgium last weekend in a World Cup qualifier.

“I always try and follow things up, that’s my style,” Meunier said. “I love bringing something to the attack.”

The win moved French league leader PSG six points clear of defending champion Monaco, which lost at Lyon 3-2 on Friday.

PSG was without Edinson Cavani — left out after playing for Uruguay in World Cup qualifying this week — but carved out enough chances to win easily.

PSG was coasting to victory until the 87th minute, when Dijon launched a hopeful ball up the field, forcing PSG center half Marquinhos to hack clear. The looping ball fell to forward Benjamin Jeannot some 35 yards out and he hit a tremendous left-footed volley over the head of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Then Mbappe’s cross fell to Meunier on the edge of the area, and his low shot squeezed through the legs of defender Oussama Haddadi and over the line.

“We fought hard the whole game and showed that we could stand up to PSG,” Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet said. “We got back into the game in an incredible way, so it’s a pity to concede that goal the way we did. We lost a bit of concentration.”

Dijon played with a high energy and harried PSG all over the pitch, forcing mistakes.

PSG’s frustration showed when Neymar was shown a yellow card for a cheap foul on Dijon defender Cedric Varrault.

Reynet made a stunning reflex save to push away Mbappe’s low volley and saved again moments later from Neymar’s strike, but could not recover in time to stop Meunier’s low shot slipping under his body in the 70th.

Saint-Etienne scored three late goals to beat Metz 3-1 and move up to third place, while Caen dropped down to eighth spot after losing 2-0 at home to Angers.

Guingamp moved up to ninth with a 2-0 home win over Rennes, but Lille’s struggles continued as it conceded an injury-time goal in a 2-2 home draw with Troyes.

Striker Andy Delort’s first-half goal sealed mid-table Toulouse a 1-0 home win against Amiens.


PARIS (AP) Montpellier continued its habit of troubling the leading teams by beating Nice 2-0 in the French league on Sunday.

Montpellier is unbeaten so far against the top three from last season. It has drawn against defending champion Monaco and runner-up Paris Saint-Germain and comfortably beaten Nice in successive games.

Benin attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon and Belgium forward Isaac Mbenza scored in the second half with their first goals of the campaign.

Sessegnon was once considered among the biggest talents in the French league when he joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2008, but his career never really took off despite several years in the English Premier League with Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.

The 33-year-old Sessegnon showed a glimpse of his ability, however, with a ferocious strike from 25 meters (yards) that flew into the top right corner in the 55th minute.

The win moved Montpellier up to mid-table, while Nice drops down to a miserable 14th place after its fifth defeat so far.

Nice offered little threat, with Mario Balotelli well contained by the home defense. When the former Inter Milan and Manchester City striker did get a chance in the first half, he was thwarted by goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte’s sprawling save.

Nantes is resolute, well organized, opportunist and tough to beat under coach Claudio Ranieri.

Sound familiar? So was unheralded Leicester when Ranieri guided it to the Premier League title in 2015-16 in one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

Ranieri has little hope of winning the French title this season, however, faced with the attacking power of Paris Saint-Germain.

After losing the first two league games, Ranieri’s side is unbeaten in seven and sits comfortably in fourth place following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Bordeaux.

Ronaldo scores 700th goal for club and country

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Cristiano Ronaldo achieved yet another personal milestone in his star-studded career on Monday evening with a simple penalty kick goal.

With his 72nd minute strike, Ronaldo tallied his 700th goal for club and country in his career. It’s an incredible achievement, and one indicative of his incredible goal-scoring exploits and his long career.

Ronaldo was already leading all active players globally in terms of goals scored, so his 700th is only adding to the list. His former club nemesis, Lionel Messi, still sits a reported 28 goals behind him, according to Soccerway. After them, LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest, and he has “only” 542 goals.

The Portuguese icon becomes the sixth male player to score 700 goals in his career. The others include Pele, Romaro, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskás, and Gerd Muller.

Ronaldo made his debut for Sporting Lisbon in the 2002-2003 season as a 17-year-old and quickly was snapped up by Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson, where he transitioned from a tricky winger to a clinical striker who couldn’t stop scoring.

The 34-year-old has scored 40-or-more goals on three occasions in his career and he scored 25-or-more goals in all nine years he was at Real Madrid. For Portugal, he’s now scored an incredible 95 goals in all competitions. He had 15 goals in World Cup qualifying alone for the 2018 campaign.

Watch the video of Ronaldo’s breaking goal below. Unfortunately for him, Portugal fell, 2-1 to Ukraine.

Southgate, England players sound off on racist abuse

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England took care of business in Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria, but the Three Lions had to endure some horrendous racist abuse from the crowd during the game.

The match was paused on two occasions I’m the first half by the match officials after racist chanting could be heard from a section of supporters, and a large group of Bulgarian fans were ejected towards the end of the half. However, racist abuse continued during the match from small pockets of fans in the stadium.

[READ: England v. Bulgaria delayed after racist abuse from stands]

“I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly,” England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV after the match. “We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players, all the way through the first half in particular, and then again at halftime.

”We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

Raheem Sterling, who scored a brace in the win, also sounded off on social media, as did former England and Arsenal star Ian Wright.

Ultimately, UEFA and the match officials followed the protocol, but the sad part about this is that England and the officials had a plan for racist abuse, and it was predictable that it would happen.

In a statement after the game, the FA confirmed they would be asking UEFA to investigate what happened. However, any punishment is too little, too late for the players who endured the abuse.

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

[READ: USMNT looks to build from win v. Canada]

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

It took just seven minutes for England to get on the board. Barkley found Rashford down the left wing, and after turning a defender with a cross-fake, Rashford cut back from goal and whipped a strike that flashed past Bulgarian goalkeeper Plaman Iliev and in for a goal.

Kane, who has earned some criticism for not scoring as much recently as in the past, showed he was more than a goal-scoring No. 9. Combining with Raheem Sterling like he did so well at the 2018 World Cup, Kane in the 20th minute played a great pass into Sterling’s feet in the box. The Manchester City winger did the rest, crossing to a wide-open Barkley at the back post for a tap-in.

Kane again played provider in the 32nd minute, floating to the right and delivering an-inch perfect cross right to the penalty spot with his left foot. Barkley was there to meet it with a glancing header to score and put the game to rest.

Despite dealing with horrendous racist abuse from the crowd and two pauses in the game, England continued to attack and were rewarded when Kane set up Sterling for another tap-in moments before the halftime break.

Kane and Sterling connected again for another goal before in the 85th minute, Kane finally got his finish to send Bulgaria packing.

Considering the events in the stadium, it’s a triumphant win for England. However, they still must win at least one more game before automatic qualification to Euro 2020 is assured, as Kosovo beat Montenegro, 2-0 on Monday as well to stay within touching distance of England and the Czech Republic.

Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.