Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Ronaldo celebrates Ballon d’Or with brace in Real Madrid rout

Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his fifth Ballon d’Or award by leading Real Madrid to victory on Saturday, while Valencia kept the pressure on Spanish league leader Barcelona.

Ronaldo presented his trophy for the best player in football to Real Madrid’s fans then scored twice as Sevilla was routed 5-0 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Ronaldo received the honor on Thursday in Paris, his fifth trophy equaling Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.

After soaking up the ovation before kickoff from his fans, Ronaldo went on to have his best performance in the league this season. His brace earned him another loud round of applause when he was substituted late.

Second-place Valencia needed a late penalty converted by Dani Parejo to see off Celta Vigo 2-1 and pull to within two points of Barcelona before the pacesetter visits Villarreal on Sunday.

Madrid moved into third place, five points behind Barcelona.

Sevilla entered the game in the Spanish capital tied on points with a Madrid side that was without first-choice defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal and midfielder Casemiro, who were all suspended for one match, and injured center back Raphael Varane.

But with Ronaldo and company on song, Zinedine Zidane’s bunch decided the match with five goals before halftime.

Two of Madrid’s reserve players who got starts to patch up its defense, Nacho Fernandez and 19-year-old Achraf Hakimi, scored for the hosts.

“We can be pleased because it’s not easy to score five goals against Sevilla,” Zidane said. “I am happy for Cristiano and for the players who hadn’t played many minutes because they played well.”

Madrid will take a break from La Liga and travel to the United Arab Emirates to dispute the Club World Cup next week as the Champions League winner.

Sevilla’s nightmare started in the third minute when Simon Kjaer failed to clear a corner kick. Instead, the ball hit teammate Luis Muriel in the shoulder and bounced toward the goal, where Fernandez only had to direct it in.

For his first goal, Ronaldo received a silky smooth pass by Marco Asensio and shot home.

Then a handball by Jesus Navas to block Marcelo’s pass in the area sent Ronaldo to the penalty spot. Goalkeeper Sergio Rico anticipated the direction but Ronaldo’s powerful shot bounced off his gloves and body before going in.

The goals were only Ronaldo’s third and fourth through 11 league games. That low tally contrasts with his performances in the Champions League, where he became the first player to score in all six group matches.

The goals were also Ronaldo’s 26th and 27th in 18 career games against Sevilla.

After Rico saved strikes by Luka Modric and Ronaldo he could not deny Toni Kroos.

Hakimi rounded off the demolition.

Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado apologized to the team’s supporters for what he agreed was its worst outing of the season.

“We ask our fans to forgive us,” Mercado said. “We need to be very self-critical to correct what went wrong.”

Valencia bounced back from its first loss of the season, to Getafe, by fending off a Celta side that was threatening to take points from its visit to Mestalla Stadium.

Valencia started strong; striker Simone Zaza jumped high at the near post to head in Parejo’s corner kick. Zaza’s 10th league goal made him the second leading scorer behind Messi on 13.

Iago Aspas netted his ninth goal to pull Celta level just after halftime, and Celta was in control until Pablo Hernandez fouled Nacho Gil in the area.

Parejo’s penalty slipped under goalie Ruben Blanco, who didn’t get enough hand on the ball.

“I don’t go crazy over wins or losses, I am interested in our dynamic and my team’s dynamic right now is extraordinary,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said.

Promoted club Getafe once again proved hard to beat as it climbed into seventh place after drawing with Eibar 0-0.

Getafe has lost only once in its last seven league matches.

Deportivo edged Leganes 1-0 at home for its first victory in five rounds, letting it move three points above the relegation zone.

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Leave a comment

Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

whufc.com
Leave a comment

West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”