Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

La Liga: Costa scores, sent off (video); Atleti still chasing Barca

Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Diego Costa was at his best – and worst – on Saturday when the Atletico Madrid striker was sent off after celebrating a goal that helped to beat Getafe 2-0 in his second match back at the club.

Costa already had one booking for elbowing a Getafe player when he tapped in Atletico’s second goal in the 68th minute. But instead of embracing his teammates, he ran around the net and to the edge of the stands where he was hugged by fans, earning him a second booking.

Far from reproaching the 29-year-old Costa, Atletico coach Diego Simeone praised the player he hopes can lead the team to the same heights they reached in 2013 and 2014, when they won the Copa del Rey followed by the Spanish league title.

“Costa gives us intensity and power, and he inspires fear. You can feel it and see it,” Simeone said. “We have known him for a long time. We know how he plays and that he always pushes the limits. His courage and passion to fight for every ball is transmitted in each play.”

Second-place Atletico is within six points of Liga leader Barcelona, which hosts Levante on Sunday.

Despite not having played a competitive match since June, Costa has shown no rust from his long layoff while waiting for Atletico’s yearlong ban on new players to expire at the start of January.

The goal was Costa’s second in as many appearances since making his return to Atletico from Chelsea. He scored as a substitute on Wednesday in a 4-0 victory at Lleida in the Copa del Rey’s round of 16.

Costa started Saturday’s match by curling a shot onto the top of the net and setting up Antoine Griezmann before the France forward assisted Angel Correa for the hosts’ opener in the 18th.

Besides providing added punch to Atletico’s attack, Costa also showed the same knack for rattling rivals with his aggressive attitude and physical play.

The Brazilian-born Spain striker had to be separated from Getafe’s Juan Cala when the two exchanged words after the halftime whistle, and he was booked for elbowing Dakonam Djene when they contested a ball in the 62nd.

Then came Costa’s goal, a cool side-footed shot to slot Sime Vrsaljko’s low cross just into the post, followed by his excessive celebration.

“(Costa) is contagious, and he showed all that he is, scoring a goal and getting sent off,” Atletico midfielder Gabi Fernandez said. “Costa doesn’t have to adapt to us, he came ready to play. That’s why we wanted him.”

The derby at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was a bad-tempered match that featured 10 total bookings.

Costa’s sending-off means he will miss next round’s trip to Eibar.

Costa helped Chelsea win the English Premier league title last season before he fell out of favor with coach Antonio Conte.

Coach Marcelino Garcia Toral returned to Valencia’s sideline to oversee its first win in three rounds, a 2-1 comeback at home over Girona.

Valencia remained in third place, two points behind Atletico and six ahead of Real Madrid, which has two games in hand.

Garcia Toral missed Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey while he recovered from a car accident reportedly caused when his car hit a wild boar on Dec. 23.

The Valencia manager wore a neck brace under his coat for Saturday’s match, when Dani Parejo converted a penalty after Girona’s Ramalho scored an own-goal to cancel out the opener by Cristian “Portu” Portugues.

Forward Luciano Vietto debuted for Atletico as a late substitute after arriving on loan from Atletico.

Real Betis won a wild Seville derby by rolling to a 5-3 victory at Sevilla, ruining the home debut of Italian coach Vincenzo Montella.

Betis never trailed, although Sevilla leveled at 2-2 by halftime. But Riza Durmisi, Sergio Leon and Cristian Tello scored in the second half to deal Sevilla its first home loss in league play since Nov. 2016.

Police arrested 23 people for participating in a fight between fans of Sevilla and Real Betis hours before the match. Authorities said that the rival fans had arranged the meeting in order to fight.

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